Michigan governor bans dining out, extends jobless benefits
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping order Monday banning dine-in customers at restaurants and closing all bars, movie theaters, gyms and other sports facilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure was to last through March. Businesses can still offer food and beverages for delivery and pickup, including with a drive-thru service.
Whitmer revised an earlier order to prohibit events and gatherings of more than 50 people, down from a 250-plus limit, with new exceptions for workplaces not open to the public, the Legislature and agricultural or construction work. The change, she said, aligns with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Whitmer also ordered that unemployment benefits be extended to 26 weeks, from 20, and that eligibility be temporarily expanded to cover workers with “family care responsibility” due to school closures or caring for family members who become ill. Others who can qualify for jobless benefits include those with symptoms or who are under self-quarantine or self-isolation and do not have paid sick leave, and first responders with exposure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“This disease is a challenge unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Fighting it will cause significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. ... This is about saving lives.”
The state reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, a woman in Macomb County, bringing the total to 54, including at least 22 people who were being treated at a hospital at the time their specimen was sent for testing. The uptick, smaller than in past days, appeared to be due to a change in when cases will be reported each day.
Some people with the virus in Oakland County near Detroit are in their 90s, said the county’s executive, Dave Coulter.
Whitmer previously declared a state emergency, closed all schools and restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The disease has infected more than 181,000 people worldwide, including more than 7,100 who have died.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, a trade group for more than 5,000 food-service and lodging establishments, backed Whitmer’s decision.
“It is incumbent upon all Michiganders to remain united to prevent a catastrophic overrun of our limited healthcare resources,” said president and CEO Justin Winslow, adding that the restaurant and lodging industries will be “decimated” in coming weeks.
People can help, he said, by buying gift cards from their favorite restaurant and still ordering carryout or delivery. Restaurants may allow up to five people inside at a time to collect orders, as long as they stay 6 feet apart from each other.
Dean Bach, owner of M-Brew and Dino’s in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, said Whitmer did the “right thing” to take the decision out of restaurant owners’ hands. He called it a forced “vacation,” but also said there was a “sense of relief.”
“Our staff can go home and worry about their families at this point,” he said. He said he was hoping to get federal Small Business Administration assistance and to file an insurance claim to cover losses, noting places still have to pay utilities and mortgages.
Workers were on edge.
“It’s scary. I’m a single mom with bills to pay,” said Kristen McCaw, 52, who has worked for 12 years at Earl’s Diner in Ferndale. She said it’s easy to make $100 in tips on busy days.
“They say it’s for two weeks. I’m worried in two weeks they will say two more weeks,” she said of the dine-in ban.
Down the street, homeward bound coffee drinkers were keeping a roaster busy. Frank Lanzkron-Tamarazo, who owns Chazzano Coffee Roasters, said he exceeded two days of retail bean sales in just three hours on Monday, after cutting hours and adopting a carry-out-only rule before statewide restrictions kicked in.
“We’ve been here almost 10 years. It’s almost like starting a new business,” Lanzkron-Tamarazo said. “You plan for the water main to break, for the coffee roaster to die. You don’t think about pandemics.”
Whitmer, who with other governors was briefed by Trump on Monday, said the state needs more tests, personal protection equipment, masks and hand sanitizer. The state’s chief medical executive has warned that the state lab is having trouble quickly reporting test results due to capacity issues.
Whitmer called it a “dire situation” and said governors from both parties led when Trump’s administration “didn’t take it seriously enough on the front end.”
“We need to expand our health care facilities that are going to get overrun because people are legitimately concerned about their health and they haven’t had real leadership coming until we governors have stepped in,” the Democrat said on CNN.
Associated Press writer Ed White in Ferndale contributed to this report.
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