LANSING, Mich. – Michigan residents are being asked to avoid indoor dining at restaurants for the next two weeks as COVID-19 cases skyrocket across the state.
“Infectious disease and public health experts across the country have been quite clear that indoor dining is one of the riskiest things you can do during this pandemic,” and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “With the numbers we are seeing now, we simply do not recommend it. You should order takeout, a drive-through service or do outdoor dining.”
Khaldun and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a briefing Friday (April 9) and asked residents to follow a series of voluntary new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
The request comes as Michigan’s case rate -- 515 cases per million population -- and percent positivity -- 18% -- rise to four times what they were in mid-February. Hospitalizations -- 15.2% of beds across the state are occupied by COVID-19 patients -- are also reaching an overwhelming level.
“We have not seen that high of a positivity rate since our first surge last spring, a year ago, and that’s concerning because we are doing many more tests than we were then,” Khaldun said. “This indicates that there is now broad community spread.”
During Friday’s briefing, Whitmer said she’s not mandating new restrictions -- though that option isn’t being completely taken off the table. She is, however, asking high schools to return to remote learning and youth sports to suspend games and practices for two weeks.
As always, restaurants were a major topic as the conversation centered around restrictions. Whitmer and Khaldun both asked Michiganders to avoid dining indoors for at least two weeks to try to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19.
“I’m strongly encouraging Michiganders to avoid dining indoors and avoid gathering with friends indoors for two weeks,” Whitmer said.
“Just because something is open, it does not mean that it is safe or that you should do it,” Khaldun said.
In the past, MDHHS has shut down indoor dining completely. Restaurants were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 1 after being banned for two and a half months. Capacity was increased to 50% in early March.
This time, no official restrictions will be enforced, but Khaldun is hoping residents will follow them anyway.
“These are very tough things to do, and we do not make these recommendations lightly,” Khaldun said. “But everyone needs to understand that if we can just pause some of these activities temporarily, it will go a long way to prevent the spread of the virus and save lives.”
Whitmer was asked why she’s recommending action as opposed to issuing another order. She said compliance, not policy, is the problem.