Michigan health director favors latest ruling in restaurants’ COVID restrictions lawsuit

‘Public health experts from around the nation and world say these types of actions must be taken’

Shuttered restaurants in Michigan
Shuttered restaurants in Michigan

The following statement is from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon on the latest favorable court ruling in the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association (MRLA) lawsuit:

“We are happy that today’s ruling keeps in place measures that will save lives by limiting specific indoor gatherings that greatly increase the risk of COVID-19 spread. The science is settled: public health experts from around the nation and world say these types of actions must be taken to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. These protocols on specific indoor gatherings, along with wearing face masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing, give Michigan a fact-based approach to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we can return to a strong economy and get back to normal safely as soon as we can.”

Gordon’s statement came Wednesday after a judge on refused to block Michigan’s ban on indoor dining amid a surge in coronavirus cases. U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney said a “plausible explanation” for the state order exists: People can’t eat or drink without removing their mask, a step that could spread the virus.

Maloney turned down a request for an injunction with a week left in the three-week indoor dining ban. Restaurants predict that the steady loss of customers could put many of them out of business. They also fear a possible extension of the order by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

Related: What Gov. Whitmer said about chance of Michigan’s stricter COVID-19 rules extending past 3 weeks

The MRLA and some restaurants sued the state health director. They said they can safely provide indoor dining and were being treated unfairly when compared to other businesses.

Gordon spoke to reporters on Thursday:

“Today, I ask that we set politics aside, focus on the science, the facts and our personal responsibilities, regardless of party, to be smart, to slow the pandemic, to safeguard hospitals for all beneath them, and to protect heroic health workers,” said Gordon.

The health director offered six key things that medical professionals know about the virus right now:

  1. Wearing masks: “First, masks matter. There will always be people who say the Earth is flat, cigarettes are harmless and masks make no difference. But the science is now settled.”
  2. Staying outside: “Staying outside matters. The virus primarily spreads through droplets, open air outside disperses the virus and makes it safer. In indoor settings, ventilation mitigates risk.”
  3. Social distancing: “Distancing is key. The virus spreads more easily when people are close.”
  4. Type of activity: “Mingling across households creates risks, especially if without masks. This includes not only partners but small groups having casual meetings in the office, or sitting around watching sports. There are numerous forms of forceful exhaling -- singing and speaking voices. This is part of why organized sports are closed.”
  5. Some risks are invisible: “A person who looks and feels fine can still infect others with COVID.”
  6. Higher death rates among the elderly and those with underlying conditions: “While they must be especially cautious, if we care about them we all must be cautious to the elderly living among us and not in bubbles.”

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