Gyms and indoor non-contact sports in Michigan can resume soon, but indoor dining at restaurants will have to wait until at least February 1st under the state’s new COVID-19 safety order.
The new order was issued Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It takes effect Saturday.
MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said further improvement in infection rates and COVID-19 cases will determine whether indoor dining – which has been banned since mid-November – will be allowed to resume.
“Now is not the time to let down our guard,” he said during an online news conference. “Our actions on February 1st will depend on what happens with the pandemic between now and then.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said once indoor dining is allowed, there will be restrictions.
“We’re working on a path to allow indoor dining with safety measures such as mask requirements, capacity limits and a curfew starting on February 1,” she said.
Whitmer said restaurant reopenings won’t succeed if customers and workers aren’t confident it’s safe.
“It’s important that we get this right,” she said. “We want to ensure that consumers, customers, workforce alike know that when the reengagement occurs that they’re going to be safe. That’s crucial.”
Republicans in the Legislature say further delay is not necessary and restaurants should be allowed to reopen right away.
Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland) said the GOP should force Whitmer to bargain on COVID restrictions by rejecting her appointments.
“Michigan is one of only a handful of states still prohibiting indoor dining, but unlike other states with closed restaurants, Michigan doesn’t have plans or metrics in place to set a path for reopening. As long as the governor rejects the importance of thousands of restaurants and small businesses she continues to shut down, then we should reject her appointments.”
Whitmer said that would only hamper the ability of state boards and commissions to carry out their responsibilities.
Whitmer and state health officials say they’re also watching the progress of a new COVID-19 strain that could spread more quickly than the existing coronavirus. The governor says if the new variant reaches Michigan, that could dramatically alter reopening plans.