LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reopened bars, restaurants and retail in 32 counties in Northern Michigan.
The number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has been declining for weeks in the state, and many northern areas in Michigan haven’t been hit as hard as the likes of Metro Detroit and Genesee County.
Whitmer announced last month that she would allow certain businesses in some parts of the state to reopen as early as May 22.
Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Groups have to stay at least six feet apart, and servers must wear masks.
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Retail businesses are allowed to reopen statewide, with 10 customers inside at a time. Customers must make appointments to shop.
Michigan counties reopening
Here are the exact locations affected by Whitmer’s reopening announcement, in terms of bars and restaurants reopening.
The first region is the Upper Peninsula, which includes:
- Alger County
- Baraga County
- Chippewa County
- Delta County
- Dickinson County
- Gogebic County
- Houghton County
- Iron County
- Keweenaw County
- Luce County
- Mackinac County
- Marquette County
- Menominee County
- Ontonagon County
- Schoolcraft County
The other area includes 17 counties in the northernmost part of the Lower Peninsula. It’s called the “Traverse City Region” in Whitmer’s reopening plan, and includes the following counties:
- Antrim County
- Alpena County
- Benzie County
- Charlevoix County
- Cheboygan County
- Crawford County
- Emmet County
- Grand Traverse County
- Kalkaska County
- Leelanau County
- Manistee County
- Missaukee County
- Montmorency County
- Otsego County
- Presque Isle County
- Roscommon County
- Wexford County
Businesses could start reopening as soon as May 22.
Office work also resumed if it couldn’t be done remotely.
“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 COVID19,” Whitmer said in a statement.
There has been heavy opposition to Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the Republican Legislature. State legislators sued the governor for extending her executive orders without their approval.
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Michiganders have also taken to the Capitol Building for three major protests, most recently in mid-May.
Despite the lawsuits and protests, Whitmer has continued to take a cautious approach to reopening Michigan. While the Big Three automakers reopened in May and other services, such as landscaping and construction, have been methodically resumed, Whitmer said her priority is safety.
“I know many people in our state are feeling frustrated,” Whitmer said. “Some are scared. Some are angry. That’s understandable, but now is not a time for division for hatred, certainly not a time for violence. Now is a time for us to pull together. Now is a time for unity.”
Whitmer announced gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed in late May.
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But during a daily briefing, she said the rest of Michigan isn’t yet ready to enter the fourth stage of her six-step reopening plan.
“I’ve been thinking about, ‘How can we drive home the story that is happening here, the stories that are not going to be called 5,000 lost lives?’” Whitmer said. “I want you to imagine as though you are standing on the stage of the Fox Theater in Detroit, which holds over 5,000 people. You look at that stage, and you know that nearly every empty chair represents a lost loved one, someone here in Michigan, someone with a story, someone with children or parents, someone with colleagues.
“These are people that were part of the fabric of our state. It’s so easy to look past this loss if it hasn’t hit close to home. It’s crucial for us to remember the families across Michigan who are still dealing with unbearable, unthinkable loss.”