A “cautious optimism” is what Ingham County Health Director Linda Vail offered as East Lansing prepares for loosened COVID restrictions.
In the latest epidemic order issued Jan. 22, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) allowed for bars and restaurants to reopen dining at 25% capacity, effective Feb. 1. Vail said that doing so is necessary to pull the industry out of economic crisis.
“We certainly hope we can get our restaurant, bar and hospitality industry out of the severe economic crisis that they have been in, so I want to be cautiously optimistic about that because it’s important, it really is very important,” Vail said. “There’s been a balance of that importance vs. cases.”
East Lansing Public Schools (ELPS) are also slated to open by March 1, and although Vail supports the re-openings, she’s keeping an eye open with suspicion.
“Concerned? Yes,” Vail said. “Going to have our eye on it? Yes, and also cautiously optimistic that we can move forward.”
Vail also said that it’s not recommended to eat indoors and reminded that when bars and restaurants first opened back up in June, it didn’t go well. More enforcements are required under the new order.
The enforcements are as follows:
Maximum capacity at 25%, up to 100 people.
All tables must be six feet apart, with no more than six patrons per table.
Masks must be worn until seated.
Required to close by 10 p.m.
For local restaurant and bar owners, the new order is a sigh of relief as the industry has taken a considerable hit. In East Lansing, restaurants have had to permanently close, such as Blaze, Quality Dairy and Espresso Royale.
Furthermore, on Jan. 25, the ELPS board voted 6-1 to bring in-person classes back for its over 3,500 students. Pre-K through 5th grade classes will resume on Feb. 22, while grades 6-12 will be brought back on March 1.
As part of Executive Order 2020-142, ELPS had to make a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, in which they laid out how to cope with COVID-19 in preparation for the return to school last fall. In the plan, strict social distancing and masking guidelines were laid out.
ELPS will still offer a remote learning option for those who are uncomfortable sending their students back to class.