By Anna Liz Nichols, Associated Press/Report for America
LANSING, Mich (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said she was closing indoor seating in bars in parts of the state, including a city with a bar that has been linked to a rising number of infections.
Whitmer also signed a bill allowing bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails in an effort to help those businesses.
Bars won’t have to close down completely, according to an new executive order, and the Upper Peninsula and much of northern Michigan are not subject to the order due to low numbers of reported COVID-19 virus cases. All bars may still keep open their outdoor patios. The order takes effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday.
“Following recent outbreaks tied to bars, I am taking this action today to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe,” Whitmer said in a news release. “If we want to be in a strong position to reopen schools for in-person classroom instruction this fall, then we need to take aggressive action right now to ensure we don’t wipe out all the progress we have made.”
Since mid-June, 119 people who went to Harper’s Brewpub in East Lansing have tested positive for the virus, according to Ingham County health officials. At least 20 other people with close contact to those cases also have tested positive.
Whitmer said in a news release that Harper’s is not an isolated incident, and her order covers the state’s largest cities, including Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. Upticks in COVID-19 cases have been seen in other bars in Michigan and other states such as Florida and Texas.
Other states have seen harsher restrictions on bars to fight the coronavirus.
Florida banned alcohol consumption in bars on June 26, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom has closed bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles.
Michigan’s new cocktails-to-go law allows bars and restaurants to provide carry out and deliver cocktails to homes. It also allows local governments to determine “social districts” for people to consume alcoholic drinks from bars and restaurants in designated outside areas.
Restaurants and bars in the state closed dine-in services shortly before St. Patrick’s Day at Whitmer’s order and started reopening in northern Michigan on May 22. The rest of the state reopened indoor services on June 8.
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.