Food & Drink

No entry: Whitmer closes indoor bars in lower Michigan


July 01, 2020, 4:15 PM by  Violet Ikonomova

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has often said she'll reopen Michigan's economy by turning a dial, not flipping switch. And after the state saw more than a hundred Covid-19 infections tied to one East Lansing bar, she's dialing it back.

In her first reversal of a loosened restriction, Whitmer on Wednesady ordered bars closed for indoor service throughout much of the state. The Upper Penninsula and part of northern Michigan are exempt.

Bars statewide can continue to serve outdoors, and Whitmer aimed to give them an extra boost by also signing into law a package of bills allowing the sale of cocktails to-go.

“We owe it to our front-line heroes who have sacrificed so much during this crisis to do everything we can to slow the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the chance of a resurgence like we are seeing in other states,”  Whitmer said in a release, citing the outbreak from Harper's and clusters linked to bars in other states. "If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made."

As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 133 people had been infected by the outbreak stemming from Harper's in East Lansing.

New daily cases are climbing statewide after hitting a low last month, though infection rates are lower than in other states.

There's increased risk of transmission at bars because they can be crowded, poorly ventilated and "encourage mingling among groups and facilitate close contact over an extended period of time," the state said. They're also noisy and may require people to speak more loudly, increasing the chance of transmission through viral droplets. And booze "reduces inhibitions and decreases compliance with mask use and physical distancing rules," the state says.

In issuing its decision, the governor's office added "that young people may be driving a new phase of the pandemic." Nearly 25 percent of diagnoses in June were of people ages 20 to 29, up from roughly 16 percent in May, according to state data.

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