COVID-19 Update: Judge won’t stop ban on indoor dining
MARQUETTE — A judge on Friday declined to immediately stop a three-week ban on indoor dining in Michigan, the latest COVID-19 restriction imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration, The Associated Press reported.
A restraining order wasn’t appropriate, especially when the state hasn’t had a chance to respond to the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney was quoted as saying.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association is suing to try to stop the indoor dining ban that began Wednesday. The group said restaurants can take further steps to reduce coronavirus risk without cutting off customers, according to the AP.
The group said its members were being unfairly treated compared to other businesses. However, Maloney disagreed.
“Individuals who patronize the businesses that remain open can do so — and must do so — while wearing a face covering. … In contrast, individuals cannot eat or drink while wearing a mask,” said Maloney, who set a hearing for Nov. 30.
Association president Justin Winslow said the denial of a restraining order means “several more restaurant workers will be losing their jobs in the coming days as restaurants remain closed.”
In-person classes at high schools and colleges are also prohibited for three weeks, plus casinos, theaters and exercise classes are closed.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued a statement Friday on the court ruling.
“We appreciate today’s ruling,” Gordon said. “Orders similar to this one have successfully stopped COVID surges in many other countries. That’s why public health experts support the approach, and we believe these targeted and temporary steps are needed to avoid overwhelmed hospitals and death counts like we saw in the spring.
“If all of us mask up and avoid indoor gatherings, we will not only save thousands of lives and protect our frontline health workers, but we’ll also be able to enjoy indoor restaurant dining without fear.”
Don’t empty those shelves just yet.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell, Michigan Retailers Association CEO William Hallan and Meijer CEO Todd Weer, senior vice president of stores, on Friday responded to news that consumers may be buying larger quantities than necessary at stores.
“Michigan has an ample supply of food products and other items. But, when shoppers panic-buy products like toilet paper, paper towels and other items, it creates a ripple effect within the supply chain,” McDowell said in a statement through the State Emergency Operations Center. “Buying what your household will use for the week keeps the supply chain moving, ensures everyone has access to what they need and allows the stores to replenish shelves for your next shopping trip.”
According to McDowell, COVID-19 has changed how people come together, especially with the holidays right around the corner.
“The impact of this pandemic has not been easy, and it is not over as we see rampant community spread,” he said. “One thing we can all do to help each other during this time is buying only what you need. This ensures your friends and neighbors have access to food and other necessary products during this pandemic.”
Signaling evidence of consumers starting to panic shop at levels first seen during the early months of the pandemic, Hallan urges Michiganders to limit purchases to a week’s worth of supply.
“Retailers across the state continue to work hard to restore and maintain product levels in stores to meet the demand in communities,” Hallan said in a statement. “Consumers need to know that stores, particularly grocery stores, will remain open.”
He said consumers should plan for essentials in weekly increments to ensure supply levels remain steady over the next few weeks.
“As retailers continue to do their part to keep retail environments safe to shop, we are asking consumers to do their part by limiting quantities to ensure there is enough for everyone,” Hallan said.
If consumers are leery about shopping in person, he encourages consumers to consider using services such as curbside pickup and home delivery.
Meijer, which has 120 Supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, continues to focus on keeping ample supply for its customers.
“Our goal is to have everything our customers need, and our supply chain and store teams are working very hard to keep our shelves stocked during these busy times,” said Todd Weer, Senior Vice President of stores for Meijer. “As long as shoppers buy the number of items they normally would, then everyone should be able to check off the items on their grocery list when they visit the store.”
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration will enhance its focus on workplace safety in the construction and manufacturing industries through two State Emphasis programs to ensure compliance with workplace safety rules helping to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.
The SEPs will be in effect through Feb. 8 and will increase enforcement to help protect employees from COVID-19 hazards in the workplace.
“Our goal is to educate before we regulate, and by MIOSHA increasing their presence in these industries where we see outbreaks, we can better ensure employers are following the MIOSHA Emergency Rules,” Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a news release. “We must remain vigilant to guarantee that Michigan’s businesses can stay open, workers can keep working, and we can continue to see economic recovery.”
Under the SEPs, MIOSHA staff will conduct random enforcement inspections at construction sites and manufacturing establishments. If the inspections determine deficiencies in the employer’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, citations and penalties up to $7,000 may be issued.
“MIOSHA inspectors will evaluate the employer’s compliance with MIOSHA Emergency Rules along with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they pertain to protecting workers,” MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman said in a news release. “Certain safeguards must be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety and health of all hard-working Michiganders.”
Requirements are posted at Michigan.gov/COVIDworkplacesafety. According to requirements of the CDC guidance and OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, steps construction and manufacturing businesses must take include conducting daily health screenings of employees and contractors, isolating those with symptoms and quarantining close contacts.
Employees are required to wear face coverings, while businesses are to implement enhanced cleaning protocols when employees or the public become sick and maintain compliance with social distancing.
Businesses also must ensure they have and use a preparedness and response plan.
For free statewide assistance, companies can call the CET Division at 517-284-7720 or toll-free at 800-866-4674.
Employers and employees with questions regarding workplace safety and health may contact MIOSHA using the new hotline at 855-SAFE-C19 (855-723-3219).
The Peter White Public Library is transitioning to curbside-only service.
Curbside and digital service will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Monthly Take & Make Activity Kits, family packs and school packs as well as virtual programs will continue.
The library has a small number of November Take & Make kits for youngsters ages 4-6. To arrange for curbside service, call PWPL at 906-226-4323.
For information on the programs, email srehborg@ uproc.lib.mi.us.
The Marquette County Health Department urges people to take precautions to ensure a safe Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It suggests people celebrate by combining no more than two households and dropping off home-cooked favorites to those with whom they have gathered ahead of time while maintaining social distancing.
The health department recommends not gathering if anyone has not socially distanced for 14 days before a gathering and is free of any illness symptoms. If people must gather, they should socially isolate for 14 days afterward and contact their primary care providers if they development symptoms.
The department recommends holding a “Zoom-sgiving” by hosting a virtual dinner party using available online meeting platforms.
The most recent cumulative numbers on Northern Michigan University’s Safe on Campus dashboard, found at https://nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/, show that between July 27 and Friday, there have been 264 cumulative COVID-19 positive cases for a 3.50% positivity rate. These include 112 on-campus students, 126 off-campus students and 26 employees.
There are 73 active positive cases — 40 on-campus students, 24 off-campus students and nine employees.
In a Wednesday letter to students, faculty and staff, NMU President Fritz Erickson reminded them about what they should do if traveling and once they reach their destinations following the end of the semester.
For the two weeks after departing campus, they are to:
≤ Wear masks at all times around anyone you weren’t living with on campus, even around family;
≤ Where possible, stay 6 feet apart from everyone, including family, particularly if anyone must remove their masks such as during meals;
≤ Where possible, avoid physical contact with others; for example, avoid hugging elderly relatives or others in high-risk groups;
≤ Do not attend gatherings outside the home, including not meeting with high school friends in town;
≤ Monitor for symptoms twice a day;
≤ Check their temperatures;
≤ Review a symptom checklist; and
≤ Test if they become symptomatic at any time, and if possible once at five to 10 days after departing campus.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal. net