On Friday, January 22, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) formerly made good on its plan to allow restaurants and bars to resume indoor dining on Monday, February 1. A new three-week epidemic order released on Friday permits businesses including restaurants and concessions at casinos, movie theaters, and stadiums to once again begin serving food and beverages indoors with some limitations for the first time since Wednesday, November 18. Dance floors at nightclubs, restaurants, and bars remain closed.
Under the new order, restaurants and bars may reopen at 25 percent capacity with a capacity cap at 100 people. Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Meanwhile, businesses with outdoor dining areas such as tents may reinstall all four sides of their structures to insulate patrons from the cold. The state is also imposing a 10 p.m. closing curfew under the new order, a practice that’s been implemented in other states and municipalities with unclear results. Contact tracing practices will also be in effect at bars and restaurants and diners will be required to provide their names and contact information in the event that a case is tied to a restaurant. MDHHS, however, continued to urge caution when weighing the decision of whether to dine out and directed businesses to the state’s new, voluntary MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program.
“Today’s announcement is possible because of our progress over the last two months,” MDHHS director Robert Gordon says in a release. “Even so, the science is clear that unmasked, indoor activities like dining and drinking are still a source of high risk around COVID-19. The safest course remains to support your favorite restaurant with carryout, delivery or outdoor dining. If individuals choose to eat out, there are two things they can do to make it much safer: go out only with members of their own household and choose a restaurant participating in the MI COVID-19 Safer Dining certification program.”
The program is designed to help certify that businesses have the proper airflow necessary to limit the airborne spread of COVID-19. Businesses can become certified and featured on the state’s website if they get an ventilation inspection and submit their report to the state. The program is being funded partially through a $10 million supplemental budget request through the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). The state is planning to host two webinars outlining the program to provide information to HVAC contractors and food service businesses.
The news will likely be welcomed by the food and beverage industry, which has been struggling under the statewide limitations during the fall and winter COVID-19 surge. Nevertheless, the state’s prolonged “pause” appears to have paid off. Michigan currently has substantially fewer cases and hospitalizations that other states in the nation.
• Michigan Extends Indoor Dining Ban Through January 31 [ED]• Trade Group Suggests Michigan May Reopen Dining Rooms on February 1 [ED]• Tracking COVID-19 Outbreaks in Michigan’s Food Industry [ED]• What Are Michigan’s COVID-19 Rules for Restaurants and Bars Right Now? [ED]