Sunday marks the expiration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s second partial shutdown of Michigan’s economy, and there’s no reason to doubt it will be extended again.
The ban on indoor dining and drinking has been in place nearly five weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Whether it has worked is hard to say, due to the lag in reporting and the daily fluctuations in cases.
What’s certain is that it has placed many of the businesses selected for closure in extreme jeopardy.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association issued an update this week on the devastation caused by the closures.
“The pandemic is decimating the hospitality industry in this state to a degree never seen or even imagined,” Justin Winslow, the organization’s head, said in a statement. “…(W)e have not yet reached the bottom.”
The hospitality group reports that 5,600, or 33 percent, of state restaurants expect to be out of business in six months and half of hotels say they are in danger of foreclosure.
Those are dire statistics, and behind them are hundreds of thousands of desperate waiters, bartenders, cooks housekeepers and others who have been thrown out of their jobs.
Operators of businesses hit by the restrictions complain about the unfair nature of the latest shutdown – bars and restaurants can’t open for indoor service, but gyms, stores and hair salons can.
If the mandated closures continue as expected the governor should base them on the safety of individual businesses, rather than by industry. The risk is not the same across the board.
Many restaurants, for example, have taken extensive measures to make their establishments safer, including installing new ventilation systems and plexiglass dividers to shield customers. They’ve also trained their staffs in protective protocols.
Their diligence and investment should be rewarded. Local health departments should be able to certify those restaurants and bars that demonstrate they can operate safely.
This would get at least some of the establishments fully open, and their employees back to work.
These businesses are on the edge of ruin, without any certainty that state or federal assistance will be enough to keep them afloat. They should be given a chance to prove they can operate safely.
— THE DETROIT NEWS
Let businesses prove they can safely open