Michigan closes bars, stops restaurant dine-in, further limits gatherings

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — To prevent the spread of coronavirus, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday ordered bars and slew of other businesses to close and restaurants to stop dine-in service, plus banned all gatherings of more than 50 people.

The state recorded three new cases of coronavirus Monday, bringing the total to 56. The newest cases are a person in Leelanau County, a man in Otsego County who may have been exposed through international travel and a woman in Macomb County who has domestic travel history.

The Kent County Health Department announced that one of its cases attended the Great Lakes Infectious Disease Conference at Ferris State University’s College of Pharmacy facility on March 7. The university emailed attendees, recommending them to self-isolate or self-monitor through March 21.

Earlier in the day, the governor said Executive Order 2020-9 will be in place until 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 30. The following public places will be closed:

Takeout, delivery, drive-thru and drive-up services will still be allowed. Restaurants may have five people inside at a time to pick up carryout orders, so long as customers stay six feet apart from each other.

On Monday evening, the governor limited all indoor gatherings to 50 people or less until April 5, citing weekend guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She had previously banned all gatherings of more than 250 people. There are exceptions, including for public transportation, workplaces and stores.

“Social distancing is the most important thing that we can do to avoid community spread of this disease. Every one of us has a responsibility to take our part, this is critical as we have seen the cases continue to grow,” Whitmer told News 8 in a Skype interview Monday morning.

The business closure order doesn’t apply to the following locations: office buildings, grocery stores, markets, food pantries, pharmacies, drug stores, health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, juvenile justice facilities, providers of medical equipment and supplies, warehouse and distribution centers and industrial and manufacturing facilities.

“I’m cognizant that this will come with some hardship to businesses and employees across our state, just like the school closure, temporarily, is going to create a lot of hardship for parents who are working and need to make arrangements or kids who need to access food,” Whitmer said.

Monday marks the first day all Michigan’s public and private schools are closed for three weeks to combat the spread of a rising number of coronavirus cases. Whitmer announced the K-12 closures last week.

“Every one of these decisions I take very seriously, they weigh on me heavily. I know this impacts our economy, but the worst thing we can do is not be aggressive now and watch this last longer and hurt more people,” Whitmer said.

Celebration Cinema said online ticket purchases will be refunded automatically. If you have a physical ticket, take it in when theaters reopen for a readmit pass.

HELP FOR WORKERS AND BUSINESSES

Another of Whitmer’s executive order signed Monday temporarily expands unemployment benefits through April 14. Eligible people now include:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.

Additionally, unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed are being extended:

  • Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks.
  • The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days.
  • The normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.

Those eligible for benefits can apply online at Michigan.gov/UIA or call 1.866.500.0017.

>>Online: Application fact sheet

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. does have programs to support businesses. If your business is in need, you can go online or call 888.522.0103. You can also reach out to the Michigan Small Business Development Center.

Whitmer added she is seeking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration and has asked President Donald Trump to issue a major disaster declaration so more federal help will be available.

Michigan joins a growing number of states — including Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Washington — where bars and restaurants were ordered to close.

WHERE CORONAVIRUS STANDS NOW

Of the 56 cases of coronavirus in Michigan, Oakland County has the most with 14. Oakland County officials said Monday their youngest case is in a 5-year-old.

Kent County has recorded five cases and Montcalm and Ottawa counties recorded one each.

Montcalm County on Monday declared a local state emergency and urged residents to avoid leaving home as much as possible.

Ottawa County has started investigating who its patient may have had contact with and will be keeping an eye on those people.

“We know there is community spread in Michigan. We need more tests. We need more capability to get those tests done. I’m trying to implore the federal government to step up their efforts,” Whitmer said.

The state has advised people to follow common-sense practices for slowing the spread of the illness, primarily washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, coughing into your arm or a tissue rather than your hands and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands. Health officials also stressed you should stay home when you’re sick. When in public, you should avoid shaking hands or standing too close to others.

To limit interactions and help prevent the spread of the illness, Spectrum Health has canceled all nonemergency appointments (including regular checkups), surgeries and procedures effective Tuesday for the next two weeks.

COVID-19 presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. For most who contract it, symptoms are mild. The people most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting health problems.

If you think you’ve been exposed to coronavirus, call your health care provider. Unless you are in need of emergency help, do not go to the emergency room so as to limit the spread of the illness. Get advice from a doctor over the phone or a televisit before going in.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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