If casinos can reopen in Michigan, why can’t other businesses? Gov. Whitmer responds

Whitmer says casinos have been reengaged in way that hasn’t led to big COVID-19 outbreaks

Casino chips (Wayne Parry, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was asked Wednesday if casinos in the state have been allowed to reopen, why can’t businesses such as gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys do the same?

“If the casinos can be open at 15% capacity, why can’t all these other facilities, especially when 15% at the casinos -- because they have such a huge capacity -- is such a big number?” Whitmer was asked.

The governor held a coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing Wednesday and again pushed back the announcement regarding the possible reopening of gyms, bowling alleys and movie theaters. She said residents can expect a decision “in the coming days” and told everyone to “stay tuned.”

Here’s what Whitmer said in response to the casinos question:

“I think the appropriate response is that what we have seen in terms of gaming in Michigan -- our tribal nations have been open for gaming much longer than the three Detroit casinos. They are sovereign nations and they are able to do that. We’ve worked very closely with them, and we’ve been learning from and sharing information and lending support, when necessary. The fact of the matter is that they’ve been reengaged in a way that we’ve not seen a big outbreak. So working with the Detroit three casinos, recognizing that 15% is a very small number when you consider how many people are in the casinos. But we thought that that was an appropriate step to take because we’ve seen in practice that it can be done safely.”

Whitmer pointed to COVID-19 outbreaks that have been linked to other types of businesses.

“Unfortunately, I think in these other spaces, there have been ample pieces of evidence that if not done appropriately, these can be spreaders, and that’s why we wanted to make sure that we get the protocols correct,” Whitmer said. “I think that we’ve got an idea of what that looks like, and as I’ve said, in the very near future, there’ll be more to be said on that front.”

Numbers by region

The overall number of positive COVID-19 cases per million people per day in the state of Michigan is at 59, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said. That number has declined in the last week.

The region with the highest case rate is still the Detroit Region, which is currently at 66 cases per million people per day. Khaldun said the case rate in the Detroit Region is declining, however.

The Grand Rapids Region is at 59 cases per million people per day. Khaldun said the case rate is increasing.

In the Saginaw Region, officials are reporting 56 cases per million people per day, and that number has decreased, Khaldun said.

The Kalamazoo Region is at 50 cases per million people per day, but the case rate is trending upward, according to authorities.

Case rates in the Traverse City Region and Upper Peninsula have increased over the last week to 40 cases per million people per day, she said.

Both the Jackson and Lansing regions are under 40 cases per million people per day and declining, Khaldun said.

The overall positive test rate in Michigan is at 3.1%, which has decreased in the last two weeks, she said.

Michigan is performing 30,000 tests per day, which was fifth in the United States last week, according to Khaldun.

More coverage

Here’s much more recent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer’s handling of pandemic:

Reopening Michigan:

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About the Author:

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.