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Whitmer shuts down indoor bar service again, reopens Detroit’s casinos

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asks for more federal aid to battle the COVID-19 pandemic on July 28, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday night signed Executive Order 2020-160, which restricts indoor gatherings to 10 people and closes indoor bar service in regions six and eight starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

Bars must close indoor service if they earn more than 70 percent of their gross receipts from alcohol sales.

“After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.”

Whitmer cited “super-spreader” events as prompting her decision. One such event was the East Lansing bar outbreak that resulted in 187 infections. Another was a Saline house party that helped infect more than 50 people.

The order limits statewide indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer and curtails outdoor gatherings to 100 in most counties.

The outdoor gathering limit is still 250 in regions six, the Traverse City area, and region eight, the entire Upper Peninsula.

Whitmer noted the seven-day rolling average of coronavirus cases has increased from 354 cases per day on June 30 to 692 cases on July 28.

However, many of those cases are infections of younger people who are less likely to be hospitalized.

From July 22 through July 29, the state has counted a total of 31 deaths.

COVID-19 has been less concentrated in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula than the rest of the state.

For example, 18 people in the Upper Peninsula have died of COVID-19, while 50 have been killed in region six’s 17 counties.

About 2,668 people have died of COVID-19 in Wayne County.

As of Wednesday, the state reported no COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the U.P. healthcare region, and 36 hospitalizations in region six, of which six are on ventilators and 11 are in critical care.

But in a separate order, Whitmer allowed Detroit’s casinos to reopen at 10 a.m. Aug. 5 at 15 percent capacity, with safety precautions.

Wayne County is in region 2S, identified as containing the city of Detroit as well as Wayne, Monroe  and Washtenaw counties, which, combined, had 139 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, 58 of whom are on ventilators and 79 in critical care.

The governor’s order laid out safety precautions for reopening.

Casinos must require customers to wear a mask, except while eating, drinking, or being identified.

Casinos must screen customers and employees daily, provide disinfectant wipes, clean high-touch surfaces often, ban indoor smoking, and either space slot machines six feet apart or install plexiglass barriers between machines.

According to city officials, Detroit has lost about $600,000 per day in tax revenue from its closed casinos.

Their closure from March 16 through April 30 totaled $22.5 million of foregone tax revenue, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, questioned if Whitmer’s decisions were actually based on science, which is part of a pending lawsuit between the Republican-led legislature and the first-term Democrat governor.

“Same day Governor allows Detroit casinos to reopen, she orders Northern Michigan and UP to go backwards,” Chatfield tweeted Thursday. “All this while still putting COVID patients in nursing homes, exposing our most vulnerable and costing lives. Science? Data? Sorry, but this seems more like political science.”

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