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Home / Business / Governor Whitmer’s administration shuts restaurants in darkness due to the new COVID rule

Governor Whitmer’s administration shuts restaurants in darkness due to the new COVID rule

“People who aren’t angry are confused,” said Winslow. “Some are both.”

Expectations about how to gather information and what to do with it are not clear, Winslow said. Also, a concern is the restaurant owner’s responsibility if personal details provided to the restaurant are shared.

Other questions include Whether everyone at the table is required to provide contact information, including minors, and whether the restaurant faces penalties for providing false or incomplete information.

The state health department said it is working on finalizing guidelines for restaurants, but did not say why that didn’t happen before the rules went into effect.

“We are seeing a lot of questions about how bars and restaurants are complying with the new contact tracking request,” said Lynn Sutfin, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

The regulations are among the new pandemic health orders released by MDHHS Director Robert Gordon, a nominee of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, on Thursday. Customers’ personal information is intended to help contact trackers as they investigate possible transmission of the virus.

In addition to requesting information from customers, restaurants are currently limited to six people per table, down from 10. Meanwhile, customers are asked to wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking, rather than just wear a mask when sitting.

The state’s more aggressive medical order – enacted as Michigan flared up on increased social gatherings and the state hit new daily highs in the case of count – also limits crowd sizes at events indoors such as parties, weddings and conferences to 50 people, down from 500 people.

Since the order was issued last week, coronavirus Hospital admissions have risen to nearly 2,000 statewide, the most since early May. Outbreaks in bars and restaurants were as of October 22, through October 22, the most recent day the state released data on out-of-school outbreaks. That compares with 34 for social gatherings and 28 for colleges and universities.

Gordon said when he revealed the new order focused on reducing the risk of gathering indoors, where people “move around, chat, dance, eat and drink without wearing a mask”.

“The more people there, the greater the risk of someone getting COVID, and the greater the number of people who could get it,” he said.

Violating the order can result in a fine of up to $ 1,000 and / or up to six months in prison. Gordon said the state likes to pursue education and voluntary compliance.

Given these privacy implications, however, it is unclear whether customers will accept the message that the policy is in place for their health and potentially slow or stop public transmission.

“What you cannot control is participation,” said Richard App, Small Business Entrepreneurship and Retention Specialist in Grand Rapids Chamber. He said he had seen posts on social media encouraging customers to provide fake phone numbers. The app also had conversations with restaurant owners, who expressed “anxiety because we don’t know how people will react.

“Restaurants are trying to stay running,” App said. “They hope everyone has understanding, because this is the first time everyone has come down this path.”

Michigan’s restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. According to federal labor statistics, about a third of the state’s hotel waiters remain unemployed, and the capacity limit is continually limited as winter approaches, 20% of the state’s restaurants reported that they may not last until spring.

The app says many restaurant owners know they’ll hear complaints from customers about “how well their freedoms are being compromised”. However, many customers have left many personal information behind in different industry systems: Online ordering, booking and credit card payment systems have involved exchanging personal information in one place. to some extent.

“The sad fact is [contact tracing] The system is there to keep it safe and let people know as quickly as possible that they may have been infected, ”App said. “The best intention is there, but a lot of people choose to see it the other way.”

Owners are also worried forward, hoping that this latest set of regulations won’t be followed with another shutdown or further customer capacity restrictions, App said.

Michigan’s new restaurant requirements are similar to those announced by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in May. However, Inslee quickly canceled her order following challenges over the privacy concerns of that state’s US Civil Liberties branch.

“We emphasize that voluntary and privacy-friendly measures are often more conducive to public health goals than mandatory measures or measures that make people fear losing their privacy. and lose the freedom to choose which businesses to join or sponsor without disclosing their identities, ” according to a letter sent on May 15 by Michele Storms, Washington State ACLU executive director.

“While we respect that the recently issued customer logging requests are intended to improve manual contact tracking, the mandatory collection of contact information from customers is a privacy infringement ”.

Later that day, Inslee revised the request, making it voluntary. He also sets some expectations for how it will be handled.

“We only need information for one person per household. If we learn that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 during your visit, the information will only be shared with public health officials. They will contact you to explain the risk, answer questions and provide resources. This information will not be used for any other purposes, including sales or marketing. If the list is not used within 30 days, it will be destroyed, “Inslee said. This is not mandatory for anyone. “

That may be where Michigan made its orders, but so far no one knows. ACLU branch office in Michigan declined to comment for this story.

Susan Ringler Cerniglia, a spokeswoman for the Washtenaw County Health Department, said local health departments also didn’t have detailed information from the state about expectations for restaurants. That department will talk to restaurants about how they are doing and give best practice advice to other restaurants.

Those chats will likely involve tweaking a take-away or reservation system, where people have provided some personal information, Ringler Cerniglia said.

Many restaurants across the state are turning to social media to encourage their customers to comply and understand that restaurant owners are doing the best they can with limited information.

The Budd Lake Bar and Restaurant in Harrison launched a raffle for their informants. Each month, a drawing session will be held with a $ 20 gift card.

“We know this will be disappointing to many people, in a way that only this pandemic can and regardless of your stance on this we are bound to comply,” according to the Facebook post. of the restaurant. “So we want you to share information, enjoy great drinks and meals!”

Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler, co-owner of The Mitten Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, made a video detailing how they will process personal information, promising to only store information on paper filled out by customers. They will seal the form in an envelope and destroy it as soon as the state allows it.

“We’re not going to use it unless we’re required to,” Andrus said.

Both Andrus and Trierweiler encourage customers not to get upset with employees. “We will be penalized for not following this,” Andrus said. “Please, a little understanding will go a long way for us and our team. Nobody wants to do this. “

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