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‘There Is No Safe Indoor, Multiple-Household, Maskless Experience Right Now,’ Gov. Whitmer Says

Stay home this Thanksgiving

Picnic tables and heaters are surrounded by autumn decor at the Skip in the Belt Alley.
Bars and restaurants are relying on outdoor seating to compensate for indoor dining restrictions during the pandemic.
Gerard + Belevender
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Taking an extremely serious tone to match the grim outlook of Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took to the pulpit on Thursday, November 12 to implore people to stay home this Thanksgiving.

With the seven-day average positivity rates across the state pushing 11 percent as of last week and ICU beds filling rapidly with COVID-19 patients, the governor and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) called on residents to batten down the hatches and prepare for a potentially harrowing winter.

The governor’s office is recommending that Michiganders redouble their efforts to limit community spread by washing their hands and wearing a mask whenever unable to maintain six feet of distance from another individual outside of one’s household. Whitmer and Khaldun also advised limiting visits to public spaces like grocery stores, self-isolating for two weeks after coming in contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms, and avoiding any social gatherings. “Thanksgiving is going to look different this year. It just has to,” Whitmer says. “We cannot afford for people to head to a family member or loved one’s house for Thanksgiving.”

Khaldun cited a rising number of reported outbreaks at restaurants and bars in addition to social gatherings. Neither Khaldun nor Whitmer directly addressed indoor dining — something that’s allowed under current MDHHS epidemic orders — but they did state that any indoor activity where people remove masks and share space with people outside of their household is considered dangerous. That would include activities like indoor dining. “There is no safe indoor, multiple-household, maskless experience right now” Whitmer says. Khaldun had previously urged residents to avoid indoor dining.

Posted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday, November 12, 2020

Whitmer warned that her administration may not be able to wait to enact new measures in the absence of action by the state legislature, which is not currently in session. Any new actions would likely come through the MDHHS epidemic orders, which were established during the 1918 flu pandemic and isn’t impacted by the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders in October.

Correction, November 13, 8:06 a.m.: A previous version of this post left out the word “maskless” from the headline and quote in the body.

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