Stricter Bar, Party Restrictions Take Effect In Northern Michigan Under Exec. Orders

(WWJ) If you're headed Up North, take note: Bars are closed and indoor parties will need to be on the smaller side.

Effective Friday, July 31, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has rolled back some reopening in Northern Michigan.

Under new executive orders signed this week, Whitmer tightened things up a bit in Regions 6 and 8, which include the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City area. 

The Safe Start Order limits indoor social gatherings to 10 people across all of Michigan, including in Regions 6 and 8, which previously had looser restrictions than the rest of the state, allowing up to 50 people. 

Executive Order 2020-160 also orders that bars in every region, including those in Regions 6 and 8, must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages. 

Outdoor bar service, such as on patios, is permitted. 

These limits on bars and gatherings were already in place in most of Michigan, including in metro Detroit, since July 1

Whitmer says "while these are difficult decisions," data shows that bar crowd and big gatherings have led to outbreaks of COVID-19. 

“As we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Michiganders cannot afford to drop our guard. We must take every step possible to save lives, protect the brave men and women on the front lines, and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system while we continue to combat COVID-19,” said Whitmer, in statement.  “After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy. By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.”   

The governor's office says COVID-19’s resurgence is closely associated with "super-spreading events" at large social gatherings, often attended by young people. An outbreak at an East Lansing bar resulted in 187 infections; more than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline; and a sandbar party at Torch Lake over the July 4 weekend led to at least 43 confirmed cases. 

Larger groups are still allowed outside, however, at least for the time being. Under Whitmer's latest orders, outdoor gathering limits will remain at 250 in Regions 6 and 8, provided those in attendance observe social distancing. Outdoor gatherings remain capped at 100 people throughout the rest of the state. 

Among those critical of Whitmer's moves is State House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican from Levering, Michigan.

On Twitter, he questioned the governor's reasoning. 

"Same day Governor allows Detroit casinos to reopen, she orders Northern Michigan and UP to go backwards. All this while still putting COVID patients in nursing homes, exposing our most vulnerable and costing lives. Science? Data? Sorry, but this seems more like political science," Chatfield tweeted. 

These latest orders come as health officials say the coronavirus remains a danger in Michigan. 

On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 734 new confirmed cases and 8 new deaths linked to the coronavirus. That brings Michigan's total case number to 81,621, and death count to 6,199. As of last official tally on July 25, health officials say 57,502 people who were infected have officially recovered. The recovery number will be updated again on Saturday.