Whitmer allows movie theaters to reopen, adjusts limits on gatherings

Friday, September 25, 2020 - 4:55pm

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Dominic Polsinelli/Daily

Movie theaters and performance venues can reopen Oct. 9 in accordance with public health guidelines, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in a Friday press release. Whitmer also altered limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, putting a formula in place to determine capacity at different locations.

In a statement, Whitmer said the state’s early steps to combat the virus made it possible to loosen restrictions.

“Michigan took some of the most aggressive action against COVID-19 in the country, and as a result, the health of our families and our economy are faring better than our neighbors in other states,” Whitmer said. “As a result, we are now able to reopen movie theaters and performance venues with strict safety measures in place. I know these business owners have made incredible sacrifices during this crisis to protect our families and frontline workers, and my administration will continue working to help them get back on their feet.”

Whitmer signed an executive order to amend the MI Safe Start Plan to allow for the reopening. Whitmer also adjusted the limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Under the new rules, rather than being limited to 10 people, non-residential indoor events now must limit attendance to 20 people per 1,000 square feet or 20% of fixed seating capacity. The size of any indoor event, no matter how large the venue, must not exceed 500 people. Face masks are required at these gatherings.

For outdoor events, instead of the previous limit of 100 people, attendance will be capped at 30 people per 1,000 square feet or 30% of fixed seating capacity, with the size of the gathering restricted to 1,000 people. 

In Ann Arbor, two iconic local cinemas — the State Theatre on South State Street and the Michigan Theater on East Liberty Street — have been closed since the start of the pandemic. Both have offered virtual screenings of films and asked for donations to help keep them in business.

The city currently limits indoor gatherings to 10 individuals and caps events at 25 people when in an outdoor setting. City Council passed an ordinance in August putting the restrictions in place amid fears that students returning to the University of Michigan’s campus could trigger an outbreak. 

Those restrictions align with rules set by Washtenaw County earlier in August. The county’s policy prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, both of which are college towns.

As of Friday, the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, which was recently updated to include testing at off-campus facilities and better align with data from the county, showed a total positive case count of 288 since Aug. 30, the day before the start of the fall semester. That count includes both students and non-students.

On Wednesday, prior to the University’s decision to incorporate off-campus tests that were not self-reported, the dashboard reported 117 positive cases during the same time period.

Whitmer noted the state is still in a state of emergency and that the virus is still a persistent threat. 

“We are not out of the woods yet, and we will continue to monitor the effects of these incremental changes,” Whitmer said. “Right now, the federal government and all 50 states have been under some form of state of emergency. We must stay the course and continue fighting this virus on behalf of our families, frontline workers, and our small businesses.” 

Managing News Editor Leah Graham can be reached at leahgra@umich.edu


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