News Story

Whitmer Not Following Her Own Rules On COVID-19 Reopening Plan

Executive orders continue to multiply

On May 7, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her “MI Safe Start Plan” outlining a strategy to reopen Michigan society after an earlier stay-at-home order was lifted. The plan specified six COVID-19 risk levels, with corresponding restrictions and requirements for the people, businesses and institutions in a given region. For example, the plan specifies that in phase four, restaurants and bars are limited to providing food for takeout, delivery and drive-thru only.

On June 1, Whitmer issued Executive Order 110, which lifted the stay-at-home order and placed the entire state in phase four. Though residents were no longer required to stay at home, the order stated, “Certain businesses will remain closed and specific activities that present a heightened risk of infection will remain prohibited.”

The governor herself deviated from the phased reopening model by permitting restaurants and bars to reopen for sit-down service starting June 8.

Two weeks later, reports surfaced linking geographically isolated increases in new COVID-19 cases to insufficient social distancing at some bars and restaurants. In response, on July 1, Whitmer issued Executive Order 143, which closed indoor service at restaurants and bars whose gross alcohol sale receipts exceed 70% of their revenue. Whitmer reasoned, “Bars have many features that facilitate the spread of COVID-19: they are often crowded, indoors and poorly ventilated.”

Despite these cases at restaurants and bars, and despite the governor’s policy reversal, EO-143 nevertheless declared, “The measures put in place by [Executive Order 110] have been effective.”

Some public health experts believe bars and restaurants are a major contributor factor to a recent uptick in new cases (which has also been accompanied by steep declines in the number of fatalities). Dr. Liam Sullivan, an infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, told, “If you asked my colleagues and me what place we would probably avoid the most right now, a bar would probably be No. 1 on the list.”

Whitmer's office didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.