GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In an effort to cap the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued several new restrictions starting Wednesday and lasting three weeks.
Under the epidemic order, restaurants must halt dine-in services, movie theaters must close, high school sports are suspended, high schools and colleges will shift to remote learning, and social gatherings should be limited to no more than two households.
In addition to household restrictions, health officials are urging those that can work from home to do so. The order leaves open work that can’t be done at home such as manufacturing, construction and health occupations.
Bars and restaurants will be closed for indoor dining but will remain open for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.
Individual activities like retail shopping, personal care services will remain open with physical distancing and face mask requirements.
Other establishments like casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls and skating rinks will be closed during the order.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency on Tuesday sent out a notice to anyone who may again be laid off that as they seek unemployment benefits they should reopen their previous claim rather than file a new one. More information on how to reopen a claim or file a new one can be found on the state’s website. The UIA added it has increased capacity in anticipation of more claims.
All high schools and colleges will not be learning in person. K-8 schools can continue learning in person with strong mitigation including mask requirements. Child care will also stay open to help support working parents.
Both public health officials and the leaders of privately-owned hospitals have pleaded with the public to follow the new rules and keep up with coronavirus mitigation practices that have been encouraged for months: washing hands frequently, practicing 6-foot social distancing, avoiding gatherings and wearing a mask in public.
State health officials have urged people experiencing symptoms to get tested. To find a testing site near you, visit the state’s website.
SEVERAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS PLAN TO GO ALL VIRTUAL
With high schools required to move to virtual learning, a number of districts were already planning on beginning this process.
Byron Center Public Schools had already modified its hybrid plan for this week for its middle and high school students and were planning on having all grades learn virtually next Monday and Tuesday ahead of Thanksgiving.
Several other West Michigan school districts that were not already all remote are moving K-8 grade virtual too even though it’s not required by the order.
Kentwood Public Schools started having all students virtual on Tuesday.
Elementary students at Grandville and Greenville Public Schools will also begin remote learning Wednesday.
Beginning Thursday, all students at Grand Haven Area Public Schools will switch to remote learning.
Jenison Junior High School students will also begin virtual learning Wednesday along with the high school students, with K-5 grade following suit after Thanksgiving.
Many districts that had in-person learning before the order say they plan to reassess once it’s lifted on Dec. 9.
BOWLING CENTER FEELS FINANCIAL PINCH DUE TO RESTRICTIONS
Entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys were among the last to open up after the COVID-19 shutdown. Now, not long after reopening on Oct. 9, they are closing again.
“We have been through this before with the seven months of shutdown,” Emily Loeks, director of community affairs for Celebration Cinema, said. “I think it’s a bit harder this time in that we’re really concerned about our team and our ability to retain our team and just the realities that we’re facing together in this next month or so of closure. It’s important to us on the other side of this to have our team in place. And so we’re hopeful for some help from both the federal government and our state government to help us with some of this short-term difficulty.”
“It’s a little frustrating, man,” said Charles “Hurricane” Patterson, a bowler at Spectrum Lanes in Wyoming. “It isn’t cool.”
He’s one of the dedicated few at Spectrum Lanes that has traveled as far as Illinois to get around similar orders in the past.
“It was kind of messed up that we couldn’t do it here. I had to drive two and half hours every other weekend just to go there to bowl,” he said.
The frustration is spoiling more than a good time.
“This is not just me not getting a paycheck next week,” said Ron Eaton, co-owner at Spectrum Lanes. “This is everything I have in life.”
Spectrum Lanes had 80 employees at the start of the year, shrinking to 60 in September. Now, ownership says 50 people will be laid off because of the three-week pause.
“It is not economically sustainable for any business such as ours,” he said. “We’re living on the good will of our bank right now.”
Eaton’s had a hand in running the place for 35 years and says the state’s decision to close bowling alleys again is misguided.
“And to say we’re all in this together is a totally untrue statement. We are not all in this together,” said Eaton. “(Whitmer) is picking winners and losers.”