Two regions in Michigan will be allowed to reopen retail businesses, office work and restaurants with limited seating, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday.
The partial reopening, which will take effect on May 22, will allow retail businesses and office work that cannot be done remotely to reopen, as well as restaurants and bars with limited seating. Restaurants and bars will be required to limit capacity to 50 percent of normal seating, keep groups at least six feet from one other and require serves to wear face coverings.
“This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe. My team and I will continue to work around the clock to protect the people of Michigan.”
The two regions allowed to reopen are regions six and eight, according to Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. The regions cover all of the Upper Peninsula and the counties of Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle and Emmet.
There are currently 542 confirmed cases and 52 deaths between both reopening regions, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“We are thankful to Governor Whitmer as today marks an important first step of reintegrating restaurants into the fabric of our daily lives,” said Justin Winslow, President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, in a statement. “Restaurants in the U.P. and northern Michigan understand that with their opportunity comes an extraordinary responsibility to operate in a manner that ensures the safety of their guests and their employees. I believe they are up to the challenge.”
Whitmer said that cities, villages and townships may choose to continue enforcing more stringent procedures that the order does not restrict their authority to restrict the operations of bars and restaurants.
“I support the shift to making decisions on a regional level when possible,” said Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith in a statement. “As restrictions are slowly eased, it will be important for us to remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]