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SUNDAY, May 17 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today plans to reopen bars, restaurants and retail businesses across northern Michigan in one of the largest steps toward returning to normalcy since the state’s first cases of the coronavirus were detected in March.
“Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure,” Whitmer warned at a press briefing earlier this afternoon. “If you don’t live in these regions, think long and hard before you take a trip to them.”
Under executive order — and subject to approval from local cities and townships — bars and restaurants in the Upper Peninsula and much of northwest Michigan can reopen their dining rooms with limited seating Friday. Retail businesses and some office work can resume too.
The latest order is exclusive to only two regions of the northern part of the state, areas of Michigan that have seen far fewer cases of COVID-19 with no sudden upticks in recent months. The rest of the state must remain in a virus-induced lockdown on remaining nonessential businesses, though any business in the state has been authorized to conduct curbside sales.
“This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe.”
Reopening businesses must adopt safety measures that, among other things, provide employee training on infection control, the proper use of protective equipment and required steps employees must take to notify employers of suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases.
Restaurants and bars must also limit their capacities to 50% of their normal seating, keep groups at least six feet apart and require servers to wear face coverings, in addition to other rigorous disinfection protocols employed at all other essential businesses.
And while the partial reopening of Michigan’s economy takes effect on Friday, cities, villages and townships can choose to limit the order and restrict operations as they see fit — including additional limits that require establishments to use only outdoor seating.
The affected counties are Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Emmet, Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac and Chippewa.
Whitmer also signed an executive order to ensure workers remain protected amid the reopening, requiring all businesses to adhere to strict safety guidelines to protect their workers, their patrons and the rest of their local communities from a second spike in COVID-19 cases.
She also appointed a director of COVID-19 workplace safety to ensure the rules are followed. Under the order, businesses must develop a pandemic preparedness and response plan and make it available to state officials, employees and customers by no later than June 1. Agencies that enforce state workplace health and safety standards will monitor for ongoing compliance.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said the order creates enforceable workplace standards that apply to every business across Michigan. And any violations can lead to license suspension.
“Because every worker in every industry across this state is impacted by the threat of this virus, we must work with our businesses to educate them on their responsibilities and then we must be diligent in ensuring that they abide by them,” Nessel said in a press release.
The Lansing City Council is expected to vote on a budget tonight that accounts for a projected income taxes decline of about $7.85 million, among other financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Revenues are slated to decline by nearly $12.5 million in the next year.
To keep the budget balanced, Mayor Andy Schor has proposed a series of cuts and other tweaks to trim expenses by more than $7 million. With nowhere else to turn, the city’s rainy-day reserve funds are poised to dip to an all-time low to help keep the city’s finances in the black.
As part of the budget, residents could be on the hook for almost two-thirds of the cost of Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann’s $34.8 million ongoing Montgomery Drain reconstruction. The current plan: Bill property owners directly to cover the costs for 30 years.
Check back with City Pulse for continued coverage of tonight’s meeting.
Catholic Diocese of Lansing parishes are holding private Mass for small groups and aim to gradually reopen public masses later this month, reports the Lansing State Journal. Current capacity limits are at 5% of normal seating. Those masses are reportedly by invitation only.
Although Whitmer didn’t know of the first coronavirus cases in Michigan until March 10, records show that there were already likely 500 infections statewide at that time and nearly 10,000 by the time the first stay-at-home order was issued, according to reports in Bridge Magazine.
Michigan has been awarded more than $35 million in additional federal funding to help vulnerable households struggling to afford utility bills during the pandemic. The funding is in addition to more than $162 million in regular low-income assistance available for this year.
Those struggling to pay bills can contact their energy providers for flexible payment plans and other assistance — and call 211 or go to mi211.org for help with energy bills and other needs.
The Detroit Free Press reports that President Donald Trump will visit a Ford Motor Company plant in Ypsilanti on Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing national tour designed to highlight the importance of companies producing personal protection equipment during the pandemic.
In the numbers…
Only three cases of COVID-19 across Greater Lansing and one virus-related death in Ingham County were reported by state officials today. The regional death toll stands at 39 with at least 948 confirmed cases reported across Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties within recent months.
Michigan tracked at least another 773 coronavirus statewide cases this afternoon with another 24 virus-related deaths, edging up the case count to nearly 52,000 with more than 4,900 deaths. More than 500 of today’s new cases were among inmates at the Michigan Department of Corrections — a result of “enhanced testing” at prisons across the state, according to officials.
Michigan had recorded only 11 more COVID-19 deaths yesterday, the smallest daily increase in seven weeks and a strong indication the coronavirus curve is flattening across the state. Today’s report, while higher, is still much lower than average statistics reported over the last few weeks.
Cases — 648 (-1)
Recoveries — 261
Recovery Rate — 40.3%
Deaths — 23 (+1)
Fatality Rate — 3.5%
One state inmate’s case was improperly listed as an Ingham County case, according to health officials, which accounts for the decreased caseload reflected in today’s latest statistical report.
As of Friday, zip code 48911 tracks at least 191-201 cases. Zip code 48910 tracks 71-80 cases. Zip code 48823 tracks 61-70 cases. Zip code 48854 tracks 51-60 cases. Zip codes 48906 and 48864 each track 41-50 cases. Zip codes 48842 and 48912 each track 31-40 cases. Zip code 48915 tracks 21-30 cases. Zip code 48917, 48840, and 48895 each track 11-20 cases. Zip codes 48285, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48933, 49251, 49264 and 49285 each track 1-10 cases.
Cases — 165 (+2)
Recoveries — 138
Recovery Rate — 83.6%
Deaths — 6 (No change)
Fatality Rate — 3.6%
Cases — 135 (+1)
Deaths — 10 (No change)
Fatality Rate — 7.4%
The Mid-Michigan County Health Department does not report recovery statistics.
Cases — 51,915 (+773)
Recoveries — 28,234 (as of 5/15/20)
Recovery Rate — 54.4%
Deaths — 4,915 (+24)
Fatality Rate — 9.5%
State reports show that about 65% of cases (and 79% of deaths) are reported from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. Other hotspots include Kent County with 5.5% of cases, Genesee County with 3.6% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.4% of cases, Saginaw County with 1.8% of cases, Kalamazoo with 1.4% of cases and Ingham County with 1.3% of cases statewide. Additionally, about 5.9% of cases, or 3,051 cases (and 57 deaths) have also been reported among state prisoners at the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Caucasians account for 35% of cases and 50% of deaths reported in Michigan. Despite accounting for a substantially smaller segment of the statewide population, African Americans account for 31% of cases and 40% of coronavirus-related deaths reported across Michigan.
Cases — 1,496,509
Deaths — 89,874
Fatality Rate — 6%
Michigan reports the seventh most cases of any state in the country, behind only New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Michigan ranks fourth in the country in virus-related deaths, behind only New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.