Whitmer allows restaurants, retail to open Friday in U.P., Traverse City region | Michigan Radio
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Whitmer allows restaurants, retail to open Friday in U.P., Traverse City region

May 18, 2020

Retail, restaurants, and offices that cannot operate remotely can reopen in parts of Michigan starting Friday, May 22.

Regions 6 and 8 may begin reopening some businesses on Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Monday that allows two regions outlined in the state's Safe Start Plan to reopen certain parts of the economy in time for Memorial Day weekend. Region 6 includes Traverse City, Alpena, Charlevoix, and other northern Michigan cities. Region 8 includes the entire Upper Peninsula.

Chief Medical Executive Doctor Joneigh Khaldun explains why those areas are eligible to reopen…

“Both of those regions...have sustained a low incidence of cases per day, have seen a steady decrease in positivity rates for tests that have been completed, and they have a low average number of deaths each day when you compare them to the state average.”

Khaldun says cases of COVID-19 in the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas are dropping, but still have relatively high rates of infection.

Cities, villages, and townships included in the order may choose to take a more cautious approach to reopening if they wish, since the order "does not abridge their authority to restrict the operations of restaurants or bars, including limiting such establishments to outdoor seating."

Services such as barber shops and hair and nail salons are not included in the order. Neither are places of accommodation such as movie theaters, casinos, and bars. Businesses that are allowed to reopen must adopt certain safety measures.

According to the order, "That means they must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Restaurants and bars will also have to limit capacity to 50% of their normal seating, to keep groups at least six feet from one another, to require their servers to wear face coverings, and to follow rigorous disinfection protocols."

Michiganders in these areas must continue to wear masks in public, maintain six feet of distance, and wash their hands often.

“This is a big step," said Whitmer, "but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19."

Chief Medical Executive Doctor Joneigh Khaldun says this partial reopening does not mean the threat of infection is over, and adds the elderly remain especially at-risk for the disease.

“Almost 40% of cases and 87% of deaths due to COVID-19 have been in people over the age of 60. This means that while COVID-19 can infect and kill people of all ages, it is especially dangerous for older adults,” said Khaldun.

Whitmer urged people from other parts of the state to avoid traveling up north in order to limit the spread of the virus.

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