Whitmer orders all restaurants, entertainment venues to close temporarily

Monday, March 16, 2020 - 9:14am

Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order all Michigan bars and restaurants to shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order all Michigan bars and restaurants to shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak. Buy this photo
Asha Lewis/Daily

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order on Monday morning closing all Michigan restaurants, bars and entertainment venues in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order goes into effect at 3 p.m. on Monday and the restrictions will last until March 30.

The restrictions apply to bars, restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, clubs, gyms, recreation centers, spas and casinos, among other places of public accommodation.

According to a press release, the order allows dining establishments to continue providing delivery services and offering takeout, but restaurants may only let five people inside at a time to retrieve their orders. Customers must maintain six feet of distance between themselves, in accordance with social distancing protocols from public health authorities.

In a statement, Whitmer urged Michiganders to act with caution when they go into public spaces.

“This disease is a challenge unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes,” Whitmer said. “Fighting it will cause significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. By practicing social distancing and taking aggressive action now, the state is working to mitigate the spread of coronavirus so we reduce the risk that our health care system becomes overwhelmed. This is about saving lives. Michiganders are tough and we are going to get through this, but it will require everyone doing their part. That means making smart choices and not putting yourself or others at risk by going out in public unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Social distancing refers to people maintaining six feet of space between one another and avoiding being in situations of close proximity to others as much as possible. 

In the press release, Joneigh S. Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said this was an important step to protect people from the spread of coronavirus.

“We need to move quickly to slow the spread of the virus and protect public health,” Khaldun said. “I realize these actions will present temporary changes to the way we live, but they are critical to help ensure our health care system is prepared to treat those who need the most urgent medical care.”

Whitmer is not the first governor to take this step. On Sunday, the governors of Ohio and Illinois both ordered all bars and restaurants in their states to close. Others across the country have followed suit. This comes after people continued to go out to bars and parties over the weekend in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

The governor first announced her intent to issue the temporary ban during an interview with northern Michigan’s 9&10 News early Monday morning, building on previous efforts across the state to restrict large gatherings. On Friday, Whitmer banned all assemblages with more than 250 people. On Thursday, the city of Ann Arbor called off all events expecting 50 or more attendees.

Local businesses have felt a strain on sales from the outbreak. Over the weekend, RoosRoast Coffee on East Liberty Street posted a sign on the door of the shop informing customers that seating would not long be offered and all orders would be served to go. Other stores have also suffered.

The owners of Literati Bookstore opted to close Ann Arbor’s well-known independent bookseller indefinitely amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In an email to customers on Friday, owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson said the decision was difficult.

“What a week,” Mike Gustafson wrote. “Hilary and I are a bit emotional and feel like we have some whiplash, as I'm sure many of you do, too. It is hard because we feel an intense need to come together as a community, and yet cannot do so physically.”

The store will still accept online orders with $1 shipping.

When University President Mark Schlissel announced on Friday that Spring Commencement was being canceled, he noted that doing so was necessary to keep students and their families safe.

“Commencement is a special time for our @UMich graduates and their families,” Schlissel wrote on Twitter. “We also want it to be safe. The Class of 2020 deserves to be celebrated, and we will work with grads to find a new date for a commencement ceremony.”

Other officials have asked people to practice social distancing and avoid large events. In a previous interview with The Daily, University Regent Jordan Acker (D) urged students to refrain from going out to bars in Ann Arbor.

“As someone who not that long ago would’ve longed to spend St. Patrick’s Day at Skeeps or Rick’s, I know that’s what students want to do right now,” Acker said. “But the reality is, even if students themselves may not get really sick, some will, and even more could be carriers of this disease … and pass it along to people who are immunocompromised, their parents, their grandparents. So even if they don’t feel the effects, gathering in these spaces, we’ve seen is one of the biggest ways this disease is spread.”

On Sunday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for the cancellation of events with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. 

Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19: The primary method to prevent it is to avoid being exposed to it. The CDC also recommends people wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes and disinfect commonly used surfaces often. 

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their health care providers or the nearest hospital.

This is a developing story. Check back at michigandaily.com for updates.

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