A group of Michigan doctors is speaking out in response to a letter circulated by the owners of Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood calling on fellow restaurateurs to fight any extensions of the indoor dining closures in Michigan.
In a release sent to local media on Tuesday, December 1, by the Committee to Protect Medicare, the group of physicians urges restaurant operators to avoid rushing to reopen for indoor dining. “COVID-19 is an opportunistic pathogen always on the lookout for a human host, and prematurely reopening dining rooms while infections remain high is to serve people to the coronavirus on a silver platter,” Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara of Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University states in the release.
Since the three-week indoor dining closure was announced on Sunday, November 15, a handful of restaurants across the state have elected to defy the epidemic order and continue serving customers indoors. These business owners generally cite concerns over financial losses as well as the welfare of employees, who, while still susceptible to COVID-19, have fewer options at this moment for pandemic relief. The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, a conservative trade group, has also filed a lawsuit against the director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, Robert Gordon, claiming the epidemic order violates the constitutional rights of restaurant owners. The Michigan Health & Hospital Association has also written an amicus curiae to the court supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Robert Gordon’s handing of the pandemic.
Adding to the pressure, on Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported that Andiamo owners Joe and Rosalie Vicari, had passed around a letter to other business owners calling on them to “band together and FIGHT BACK” against any extensions of the current epidemic order. The physicians group directly addressed the letter in its release, calling Vicari’s statements “reckless” noting that “these businesses will suffer more devastating damage if customers and staff continue to fall ill and possibly succumb to this unpredictable infection.” The letter continues:
Data and evidence show that restaurants, bars and cafes are places with the highest likelihood for COVID-19 transmissions, and as physicians, we urge these businesses to help reduce infections by following expert scientific advice so we can all do our part to help keep people safer.
While many restaurant owners who oppose or have chosen to violate the current orders cite statistics showing that restaurants and bars are tied to fewer outbreaks than other settings such as social gatherings, the reality is that these weekly numbers are only a small snapshot of the true devastation of the pandemic. A single outbreak could for example account for three people or for 30 people. Likewise, many people who test positive ultimately are unable to identify where they came into contact with the virus. By limiting customers dining indoors in restaurants and bars, state health officials hope to limit activities where individuals remove masks while socializing — something that puts themselves and employees at risk.
The physicians’ letter further calls on the federal government to provide renewed assistance to small businesses and people who have been financially impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic and are being forced to choose between their lives and their livelihoods.