LANSING — In an act to curb upticks in new cases across Michigan, and perhaps reprimand careless bar goers, Governor Whitmer announced on Wednesday that she will be closing down indoor bar services through most of lower Michigan.
Bars will be able to serve customers outdoors and will be able to offer cocktails-to-go. The Upper Peninsula and much of northern Michigan are excluded from Whitmer’s executive order.
The state has linked this need to re-close indoor services at bars to a growing number of large outbreaks, or “super-spreader” events, that have been linked to bars in Michigan and elsewhere. Health officials in Ingham County have linked 107 confirmed COVID-19 cases to an outbreak in a single bar in East Lansing. The state said similar super-spreader events have been documented in bars in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and elsewhere.
Brewpubs, distilleries and vineyards will remain open indoors, as the order only applies to liquor-licensed businesses that earn more than 70 percent in gross revenue from alcohol sales. Unfortunately, traditional bars, nightclubs and strip clubs will have to end indoor service.
“If we open up our economy too quickly, the efforts of the last three months will be for nothing and we will have to go through this pain all over again and put our economy, health and medical system at risk,” Whitmer said. “Nobody wants to move backward. Everyone, please do your part and let’s show the nation and the world how smart we are.”
The state has said that over the past week, every region in Michigan has seen an uptick in new cases and daily case counts now exceed 20 cases per million in the Grand Rapids, Lansing and Kalamazoo regions.
It has also warned that young people may be ushering in 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. This shift aligns with national trends.
The state also said the nature of bars themselves may be a problem. Bars are often crowded, indoors and poorly ventilated, which increases the chance of COVID-19 spreading from person to person.
Bars are also often noisy, forcing people to yell and project viral droplets, and alcohol reduces inhibitions and decreases compliance with mask use and physical distancing rules. Bar employees in Detroit can attest to this non-compliance in recent days, with some inebriated customers simply refusing to wear a mask to protect themselves and others.
“Bars will not have to close down completely, but may still offer outdoor seating and use creative methods like cocktails-to-go in hopes that we can bring our numbers down,” Whitmer said. “I am hopeful providing options for cocktails-to-go and expanded social districts will ensure these businesses can remain open and Michiganders can safely and responsibly enjoy their summer outdoors.