Many Michigan COVID restrictions eased starting today

Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, theaters can increase to 50% capacity

Mask on table at Michigan restaurant

The state of Michigan is easing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in several areas including restaurants and bars.

Starting Friday, March 5, 2021:

  • Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and theaters can increase to 50% capacity
  • Retail businesses can increase to 50% capacity
  • Gyms also can increase to 50% capacity
  • Indoor dining curfew is extended to 11 p.m.
  • Nursing home visitation resumes

These restrictions are scheduled to continue through at least April 19, 2021.

Restaurants, bars

On Tuesday (March 2), Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the restrictions on indoor dining had been revised.

Michigan restaurants and bars will be allowed to fill up to 50% capacity starting Friday (March 5), with a maximum of 100 people, according to the state.

“I’m proud that we are able to take this positive step without compromising public health,” Whitmer said.

Since Feb. 1, restaurants had been capped at 25% capacity. From mid-November through the end of January, no indoor dining was allowed at bars or restaurants.

The indoor dining curfew has been pushed back from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Parties are still limited to six people per table, and all tables have to be at least six feet apart, Whitmer said. Customers must still wear masks when they’re not seated at their tables.

For now, Michigan’s new restrictions are expected to be in effect until April 19.

Whitmer hinted last week that the state would be announcing further re-engagement of the economy, but it didn’t sound like restaurants would be part of that revision.

But Michigan’s improving COVID-19 metrics were apparently enough for restaurant owners to get their wish. They have been asking to increase to 50% capacity for weeks.

“All of the momentum that we are seeing is possible because we remain committed to following guidelines that protect public health,” Whitmer said.

Nursing home visitations

Visitation at nursing homes will now be allowed, Whitmer said.

“We know that this virus has taken a disproportionate toll on our seniors, and the isolation and the time apart have been taxing on everyone, with loved ones in long-term care facilities,” Whitmer said.

Under the new guidelines, family members can visit relatives in nursing homes after receiving a negative COVID-19 test.

Visitation is allowed as long as the facility has not had a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days and all indoor visitors ages 13 and older are subject to rapid antigen testing.

Outdoor visits do not require testing, and they’re allowed if there haven’t been any recent COVID cases in the family, officials said.

Compassionate care requires testing, but end-of-life visits are exempt from testing, according to the state.

Different rules apply to special categories of visitors, such as medical providers and those giving assistance with activities of daily living, officials said.

Mask mandate remains

All persons participating in gatherings are required to wear a face mask under the Michigan “Gatherings and Face Mask Order.”

Here are the face mask requirements listed under the order:

Face mask requirement at gatherings:

(a) All persons participating in gatherings are required to wear a face mask.

(b) As a condition of gathering for the purpose of transportation, transportation providers must require all staff and patrons to use face masks, and must enforce physical distancing among all patrons to the extent feasible.

(c) Except as provided elsewhere in this order, a person responsible for a business, store, office, government office, school, organized event, or other operation, or an agent of such person, must prohibit gatherings of any kind unless the person requires individuals in such gatherings (including employees) to wear a face mask, and denies entry or service to all persons refusing to wear face masks while gathered.

(d) A person responsible for a business, store, office, government office, school, organized event, or other operation, or an agent of such person, may not assume that someone who enters the facility without a face mask falls within one of the exceptions specified in section 8 of this order, including the exception for individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face mask. An individual’s verbal representation that they are not wearing a face mask because they fall within a specified exception, however, may be accepted.

(e) A person responsible for a child care organization or camp, or an agent of such person, must not allow gatherings unless face masks are worn by all staff. Children must wear face masks as indicated below:

(1) All children 2 years and older when on a school bus or other transportation provided by the child care organization or camp;

(2) All children 4 years and older when in indoor hallways and indoor common areas;

(3) All children 5 years and older when in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor settings.

(f) Participants in gatherings for any exercise activities, group fitness, or organized sports must comply with face mask requirements listed in MDHHS’s document entitled Guidance for Athletics issued February 7, 2021.8.

Exceptions to face mask requirements:

Although a face mask is strongly encouraged even for individuals not required to wear one (except for children under the age of 2), the requirement to wear a face mask in gatherings as required by this order does not apply to individuals who:

(a) Are younger than 5 years old, outside of a child care organization or camp setting (which are subject to requirements set out in section 7(e));

(b) Cannot medically tolerate a face mask;

(c) Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment or at a private residence;

(d) Are exercising outdoors and able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance from others;

(e) Are swimming;

(f) Are receiving a medical or personal care service for which removal of the face mask is necessary;

(g) Are asked to temporarily remove a face mask for identification purposes;

(h) Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deaf blind, or hard of hearing and whose ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;

(i) Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, and where wearing a face mask would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities;

(j) Are engaging in a religious service;

(k) Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least12 feet away from the speaker; or

(l) Are participating in a testing program specified in MDHHS’s document entitled Guidance for Athletics issued February 7, 2021, and are engaged in practice or competition where the wearing of a mask would be unsafe.

View the full order here.

About the Authors:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.