Governor Gretchen Whitmer says some rural regions of the state can partially re-open Friday, May 22 due to low COVID-19 infection rates. Restaurants and bars will be able operate at 50 percent seating capacity in the Upper Peninsula and 17 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula.
"[The Executive Order allows] the reopening, in two regions, of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating," the Governor said via press release.
In order to re-open, businesses have to, among other things, train workers on proper sanitation, the use of personal protective equipment and how to monitor and report COVID-19 symptoms.
Chief Medical Executive Doctor Joneigh Khaldun says the re-opening does not mean the threat of the coronavirus is over. She says the elderly remain especially at-risk for the disease.
"Almost 40-percent of cases and 87-percent of deaths due to COVID-19 have been in people over the age of 60. This means that while COVID-19 can infect and kill people of all ages, it is especially dangerous for older adults,” Khaldun said.
Some businesses Up North have already celebrated the news while urging consumers and business owners to remain cautious.
"The Governor’s regional plan recognizes there is no one-size-fits-all approach and northern Michigan is ready to lead by example and open safely." said President of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce Stacie Bytwork. "Our businesses will take these protocols seriously. Their livelihood is on the line."
As of Monday May 18, Michigan has 51,915 confirmed coronavirus cases. Lisa Peacock, the health officer for the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, says they are still concerned the community hasn’t seen the worst of the virus, but support a careful re-opening plan.
"We are in a different place than we were 8 weeks ago and we just have a great opportunity to do this slowly, carefully and make sure that we all come out of it healthy," Peacock said.