Saturday, December 4, 2021

MDHHS extends emergency orders, requires bars to log patrons

October 29, 2020
<p>Spartan Stadium has converted into a COVID-19 testing facility to allow students living on or near campus to get tested. The entrance to the testing center is located at Gate B. Shot on Sept. 23, 2020.</p>

Spartan Stadium has converted into a COVID-19 testing facility to allow students living on or near campus to get tested. The entrance to the testing center is located at Gate B. Shot on Sept. 23, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated the gatherings and face mask order, establishing mandatory contact tracing for bars and restaurants. 

All dine-in food service establishments are now required to maintain accurate records of the names and phone numbers of patrons who purchase food for consumption on the premises, along with the date and time of entry. If patrons refuse to give out this information then servers need to deny entry/service.

The order is effective immediately, though bars and restaurants won't have to begin contact tracing until Nov. 2.

Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for MDHHS, said in a press release that the orders are to keep the public safe and following the best practices to reduce the speed of this deadly virus. 

“The alarming surge we are now seeing is exactly why we were so worried about the fall season," Khaldun said. "We must remain vigilant, so we prevent long-term health consequences and unnecessary deaths, and protect our hospital capacity and the health of our frontline health workers."

These new provisions target indoor gatherings where COVID has spread most rapidly. Currently, Michigan has 172 cases per million people and the positivity of tests has increased from 2% to 5.5%. Both indicators have been increasing for more than four weeks. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over the last three weeks while the state death rate has increased for five consecutive weeks. 

As part of the extended orders, MDHHS also reduces the maximum gathering size for indoor gatherings such as weddings, parties and banquets from 500 persons to 50 persons. 

For bars, restaurants and social events outside private homes, indoor party sizes at a single table are restricted to six people. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that visiting restaurants is a risk factor for COVID positivity. Currently, there are 12 outbreaks in Michigan associated with bars or restaurants and active clusters up to 12 cases.

According to the most recent data gathered by MDHHS, only two COVID-19 outbreaks were tied to bars during a two-week period ending on Oct. 22.

“Wear masks," MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in the release. "Keep six feet of distance. Wash hands. And avoid the indoor get-togethers where we have seen COVID explode.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield invited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and several other lawmakers for a "discussion regarding the impact of COVID-19 on Michigan."

According to Shirkey's Twitter, Whitmer has yet to respond to this offer.

Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) Executive Director Scott Ellis said in another press release that the updated order puts an unnecessary burden on servers and staff who already have to deal with customers that refuse to wear masks. 

“Our great Michigan bars and restaurants have been doing everything they possibly can to ensure their businesses are clean and safe for patrons,” Ellis said. “While cases throughout the state are rising, bars and restaurants are keeping outbreaks at almost non-existent levels. If contact tracing is important, we should be doing it everywhere, not just in certain businesses to paint a bad picture.”

MDHHS was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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