Michigan doctors urge restaurants to keep customers safe from COVID-19 by avoiding rush to reopen

Call comes after restaurateurs circulate letter urging others to reopen if ‘3-week-pause’ extends


DETROIT – Doctors in Michigan are urging restaurants to help keep people safer by avoiding a rush to reopen.

They are asking restaurants to continue the pause on indoor dining to minimize infections. This call comes after two prominent Metro Detroit restaurateurs circulated a letter asking other restaurant owners to reopen even if Michigan’s “3-week-pause” is extended.

“This industry is hanging on by a thread,” Rosalie Vicari said. Rosalie and her husband Joe Vicari own the Vicari restaurant group, with high-end restaurants like Joe Muer Seafood, Brownies On The Lake and multiple Andiamo Italian restaurants.

READ: Andiamo owners urge Michigan restaurants to defy shutdown order, reopen if ‘3-week pause’ extends

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the “three-week pause” as cases of COVID-19 skyrocketed in the weeks after Halloween. The order -- carried out through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services -- required closed indoor dining rooms, forcing restaurants to go back to carry out, curbside or delivery until the order was lifted. It expires on Dec. 8.

“COVID-19 is an opportunistic pathogen always on the lookout for a human host, and prematurely reopening dining rooms while infections remain high is to serve people to the coronavirus on a silver platter,” said Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, MD FAAP, an Internal Medicine-Pediatrics physician in the city of Detroit. “All of us want people to get back to work and businesses to reopen responsibly, but Mr. Vicari’s call to reopen no matter the health risk is reckless. Data and evidence show that restaurants, bars and cafes are places with the highest likelihood for COVID-19 transmissions, and as physicians, we urge these businesses to help reduce infections by following expert scientific advice so we can all do our part to help keep people safer. Reopening restaurants while COVID-19 ravages Michigan and hospitals are running low on beds and staff will risk the lives of customers as well as countless servers, cooks, cashiers, dishwashers and their families.”

READ: Restaurants in Metro Detroit take steps to stay open this winter amid COVID-19 pandemic

“We understand that these protections against COVID-19 can add financial stress on already strained businesses and are sympathetic, however, these businesses will suffer more devastating damage if customers and staff continue to fall ill and possibly succumb to this unpredictable infection,” said Dr. Opara. “If we don’t get this pandemic under control we are committing to never giving ourselves the chance of an economic recovery. We urge that the federal government provide interim assistance to help small businesses stay afloat without having to recklessly reopen and endanger more people.”

According to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s top medical executive, Michigan hospitals are filling up at an alarming rate as COVID-19 case and positivity rates across the state continue to soar. On Nov. 19, Khaldun said all eight of the state’s geographical regions are seeing “alarming case and test positivity rates.”

READCan Michigan get COVID-19 curve down enough for new restrictions to end after 3 weeks?

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.