(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to extend the ban on indoor dining until Feb. 1, Michigan License and Beverage Association Director Scott Ellis told The Center Square on Wednesday.
When Whitmer originally enacted the ban on Nov. 17, she said it was a three-week “pause.”
However, restaurant associations are fretting as the “pause” stretched to two-and-a-half months— or 75 days — and the number of restaurants that are closing permanently is increasing.
About 2,000 Michigan restaurants closed for good in 2020, and President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Justin Winslow has said up to 6,000 could close by spring if restrictions aren’t lifted. The pause resulted in roughly 250,000 employees being laid off during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
On Wednesday morning, Winslow tweeted more than 10,000 emails, including a letter urging Whitmer to reopen restaurants on Jan. 15, have been sent in 24 hours.
The November closure aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, although contact tracing at the time showed bars and restaurants to be only the fourth-highest source of outbreaks.
Health officials have marked three metrics they want decreasing to reopen indoor dining: the share of hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients, case rates, and the percent positivity rates.
Cases have declined for 46 days, and COVID-19 hospitalizations are down from 19.6% inpatient bed occupancy to 12.6%, health officials said last week. However, on Monday, the state’s positivity rate was at 9.6%, an increase from 8.2% in late December.
Whitmer will hold a press conference at noon Wednesday at noon to announce more details.
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