Restaurants Close

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered that all of the state's restaurants and bars must close to dine-in customers by 3 p.m. Monday.

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping order Monday banning dine-in customers at restaurants and closing all bars, movie theaters, gyms and other sports facilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure took effect at 3 p.m. and was to last through March. Businesses can still offer food and beverages for delivery and pickup, including with a drive-through service.

She also ordered that unemployment benefits be extended to 26 weeks, from 20, and that eligibility be temporarily expanded to cover workers with "family care responsibility" due to school closures or caring for family members who become ill. Others who can qualify for jobless benefits include those with symptoms or who are under self-quarantine or self-isolation and do not have paid sick leave, and first responders with exposure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"This disease is a challenge unlike any we've experienced in our lifetimes," Whitmer said in a statement. "Fighting it will cause significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. ... This is about saving lives."

The state reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the Michigan total to 53. Among the new cases is the state's first child to test positive, a 5-year-old boy from Oakland County, near Detroit. Some are in their 90s, said the county's executive, Dave Coulter, whose office said three patients out of 14 cases were in the hospital.

Whitmer previously declared a state emergency, closed all schools, prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people and restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The disease has infected more than 179,000 people worldwide, including more than 7,000 who have died.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, a trade group for more than 5,000 food-service and lodging establishments, backed Whitmer's decision.

"It is incumbent upon all Michiganders to remain united to prevent a catastrophic overrun of our limited healthcare resources," said president and CEO Justin Winslow, adding that the restaurant and lodging industries will be "decimated" in coming weeks.

People can help, he said, by buying gift cards from their favorite restaurant and still ordering carryout or delivery. Restaurants may allow up to five people inside at a time to get orders, so long as they stay 6 feet apart from each other.

Dean Bach, owner of M-Brew and Dino's in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, said Whitmer did the "right thing" to take the decision out of restaurant owners' hands. He called it a forced "vacation," but also said there was a "sense of relief."

"Our staff can go home and worry about their families at this point," he said. He said he was hoping to get federal Small Business Administration assistance and to file an insurance claim to cover losses, noting places still have to pay utilities and mortgages.

Workers were on edge.

"It's scary. I'm a single mom with bills to pay," said Kristen McCaw, 52, who has worked for 12 years at Earl's Diner in Ferndale. She said it is easy to make $100 a day in tips.

"They say it's for two weeks. I'm worried in two weeks they will say two more weeks," she said.

Whitmer, who with other governors was briefed by Trump on Monday, said the state needs more tests, personal protection equipment, masks and hand sanitizer. The state's chief medical executive has warned that the state lab is having trouble quickly reporting test results due to capacity issues.

"We need to make sure that we've got the ability to make all the tests, to run the tests and to get results in real time," Whitmer said on MSNBC. "All of these come in the form of assistance and leadership at the federal level."

Also Monday, one of Michigan's largest utilities, Consumers Energy, said it would suspend non-payment shutoffs for low-income and senior customers — two days after DTE Energy announced similar actions.

Associated Press writer Ed White in Ferndale contributed to this report.

(1) comment

Vladtheimp

This is Government gone wild madness. President Trump is accused of being an authoritarian? Of being an Emperor?

What are the statistics that support this radical action - especially given the severity of the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009? If the Empress of Lansing can assume these powers, when will she cut off natural gas and propane supplies from the Lake Michigan pipeline? When will she ban the sale of guns?

And where is the Michigan Legislature, which has the sole authority to pass laws affecting the citizens of Michigan? If this is the Crisis that must be taken advantage of, are you telling me that the elected Representatives of the citizens at the local level can't get their stuff together and pass legislation mirroring the edict of the Empress in a day?

Oh well, if the Mayors and Governors of the States are correct in allowing so-called Sanctuary Cities, protecting illegals, rather than we citizens from medically un-screened and un-vetted illegals, like Joe Biden pledged last night, I guess we should trust them on shutting down private businesses . . .

Of course, Empress Whitmer will still get her paycheck to pay for food (she doesn't have to worry about rent payments for the mansion in Lansing or the summer estate on Mackinac Island - we pay for that) or worry about childcare costs for her children since she closed the schools, or worry about her personal safety since she has an armed security unit - must be nice to be an Empress!!

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