Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) extended her lockdown of Michigan restaurants Wednesday as her original “three week pause” stretched into a twelfth week.
Whitmer relaxed previous orders banning group exercise classes and non-contact sports, but extended the mandated closure of in-person dining at restaurants and bars until at least February 1.
“The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and small business owners are working,” Whitmer said, NBC 6 reported.
The original “pause” was announced in November and the extension was the third such one.
“While there has been a slight uptick in our percent positivity rate, our cases per million have plateaued and more hospital beds are becoming available. Today, we are confident that MDHHS [Michigan Department of Health and Human Services] can lift some of the protocols that were previously in place,” she said.
“We are reopening cautiously because caution is working to save lives,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon told reporters.
“The new order allows group exercise and non-contact sports, always with masks and social distancing, because in the winter it’s not as easy to get out and exercise and physical activity is important for physical and mental health,” he said.
“We are glad that we made it through the holidays without a big increase in numbers, but there are also worrying signs in the new numbers,” Gordon said.
The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA), meanwhile, blasted Whitmer for the ongoing lockout.
“The governor’s continuation of this pause without a plan — now expanding to 75 days — is without parallel in the nation in terms of its unwillingness or inability to provide leadership to a decimated industry and its workforce,” MRLA President and CEO Justin Winslow said in a statement.
“There are more than 100,000 unemployed hospitality workers and thousands of small operators on the edge of bankruptcy all waiting for hope and direction, and once again it did not come. This is unacceptable and we should all demand more accountability,” he said.
Winslow added, “Michigan stands alone as the only remaining statewide closure of dining rooms without a discernible, data-driven path to reopen and fully reintegrate in the economy.”
According to the MRLA, Michigan’s hospitality job losses are double the national average.
“Michigan has not prioritized vaccination for the hospitality industry, unlike most states that have similarly poor hospitality job loss,” the group said.
Winslow argued Michigan has met all three metrics established by MDHHS to reopen, including declining daily case rates, hospitalizations, and percent positivity.
Whitmer’s latest orders run through January 31.