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Nursing Home Visitors; Restaurants, Gatherings & More Expand Under New Order

March 9, 2021

Nursing home residents can take visitors, while restaurants, bars, residential and non-residential gatherings and other venues will be allowed increased capacity under the newest epidemic orders announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last Tuesday. 

Family members will be allowed to see their loved ones in nursing homes, provided the facility in question has not had a new COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and the visitors who come indoors get a negative COVID-19 test. 
 
The order, which goes into effect immediately, encourages communal dining and group activities for residents and allows indoor and outdoor visitation in all counties regardless of county risk level, according to a press release announcing the changes. 
 
The state said all residents at skilled nursing homes have been offered their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and a vast majority have had their second dose. 
 
Also announced today, restaurants and bars can go to 50% capacity and 100 people with an 11 p.m. curfew, up from the 25% capacity and 10 p.m. curfew. 
 
The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) saw the increased capacity limit as a step in the right direction, but they were “truly disappointed that the 100-person cap will carry over” from the previous order. 
 
“Larger establishments with greater capacity limits have more space to spread patrons out. If people are abiding by social distancing rules, there’s no need for an arbitrary cap for any establishment regardless of size,” Scott Ellis, executive director of the MLBA, said in a statement. 
 
The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association welcomed the expansion of occupancy for restaurant, banquet and meeting spaces, but took issue with “the six-week duration” of the order and said it’s “significantly too long to adapt to rapidly changing metrics around this virus.” 
 
Retail is now allowed to be at 50% capacity, which pleased the Michigan Retailers Association, although it added in its reaction that “until we are at 100% capacity, retailers will continue to struggle.” 
 
Indoor residential gatherings are now up to 15 people from three households, an increase from the previous 10 people from two households, while outdoor residential gatherings can now include up to 50 people.  
 
The state also noted that public meetings and other small indoor gatherings may resume with the allowance of up to 25 people for indoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households. 
 
Other capacity changes announced today include: 
 
— Exercise facilities can go to 30% capacity with restrictions on distancing and mask requirements. Gyms had been pushing for an increase of their 25% capacity.  

 
— Casinos are now allowed to be at 30% capacity. 
 
— Outdoor non-residential gatherings where people interact across households are permitted up to 300. 
 
— Indoor entertainment venues are allowed to be at 50% capacity, up to 300 people. 
 
— Indoor stadiums and arenas are allowed have 375 if seating capacity is under 10,000; 750 if seating capacity is over 10,000.  
 
— Outdoor entertainment and recreational facilities may host up to 1,000 patrons. 
 
All of those changes go into effect Friday and are set to run through April 19. 
 
The Northern Michigan Chamber issued a statement saying the group was encouraged to see restrictions were loosened on businesses. 
 
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), issuing a statement via a “Majority Leader Press” Senate email, said Whitmer’s announcements today were “woefully inadequate, ensures we remain completely out of step regionally and nationally, and will drive more Michiganders out of their jobs and out of our state.” 
 
Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) said the announcement today was “a good step forward” but that “there’s still a long way to go.” Sen. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) said Michigan will still remain “woefully behind our neighbors in terms of reopening.” 
 
Similar sentiments were voiced by Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) and Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Sterling Heights), and MacDonald said he was “worried that this positive step is too little, too late for many of our local job providers who are struggling to survive under the governor’s punitive restrictions.”  
 
Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) Tuesday thanked the Governor for “paying attention” and responding to a letter he and several of his colleagues sent her about fixing “the confusing restrictions on local governments and bodies and their ability to meet and serve their local communities.” 

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