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Gov. Whitmer Addresses Urgent Need for Restaurant Relief During COVID-19 Briefing

“I don’t want [business owners] to have to make tough, awful decisions that could jeopardize their workforce and their customers, because I want them to be successful. I know they need help and I’m trying to give that help,” Whitmer said

The inside of a bubble at Bobcat Bonnie’s in Detroit.
Restaurants are currently permitted to offer seating inside of domes, tents and outdoor spaces enclosed with not more than one wall during a three-week indoor dining pause.
Gerard + Belevender

In a press conference on Tuesday, December 1, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continued to urge individuals and business owners to follow the statewide health orders and recommendations aimed at beating back Michigan’s winter COVID-19 surge. In her address, the governor repeatedly returned to the issue of indoor dining closures — a subject that’s drawn the ire of some restaurant owners.

“I would discourage people from willfully breaking the law,” Whitmer stated in response to a question about restaurants pushing back against and defying state epidemic orders. “I want these restaurants to succeed,” Whitmer added. “I want to do everything in our power to help them in these tough times.”

In her remarks, Whitmer reiterated on the urgent need for financial relief for businesses and workers — particularly those in the restaurant industry who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and the measures to contain it by nature of their jobs. “I know that they’re scared. They’re scared of what it means to not have a paycheck. They’re scared of what it means to go back to work and possibly get the virus and bring it home to their loved ones. I think we’re all feeling that anxiety, but no one as acutely as restaurant workers,” she said.

For weeks now, Whitmer’s administration has been pushing for additional aid from the federal government, but recently also requested that the state legislature pass a $100 million relief bill. “I’ve been asking our federal government to take some action, but since they haven’t I’m hoping that our legislature will work with me on this to give some relief to these restaurants,” she said. “I don’t want [business owners] to have to make tough, awful decisions that could jeopardize their workforce and their customers, because I want them to be successful. I know they need help and I’m trying to give that help,” she said.

During her address, the governor also reiterated the reasoning behind the current epidemic order that resulted in dining room closures. “I challenge you to think about even a 10 percent full restaurant and what that means in terms of how many households are represented there, and inherently unmasked because people are eating,” she said. “That’s just unfortunately all the different ingredients for a higher risk situation and that’s why we’ve tried to do this strategically.”

When asked whether there was any information regarding the possible extension of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order, Whitmer stated that officials would likely have a better sense of the situation “early next week.”

Whitmer didn’t provide any specific benchmark numbers, she mentioned that percent positivity rates and hospitalization rates are key indicators that experts were monitoring closely when making decisions. As both Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Whitmer pointed out, there’s a strong possibility that the state could see another surge in cases within the next few weeks due to Thanksgiving gatherings.

Watch Whitmer’s full remarks below:

Posted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Some Michigan Restaurants Call to Defy Dine-In Closure as State Issues Fines, License Suspensions [ED]
Michigan Doctors Call on Restaurant Owners to Stop ‘Recklessly’ Reopening Dining Rooms [ED]
How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Detroit Food and Beverage Industry [ED]

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