Schools, restaurants prepare for closures amid epidemic order


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several businesses and school districts in West Michigan are preparing to temporarily close their indoor facilities this week.

Sunday evening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an epidemic order requiring colleges, universities and high schools to move to virtual-only learning as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge in the state.

“High school students are more independent. They have jobs, they have extracurricular events and so the amount of interactions that our older students have are far different than what our younger students have,” said Godfrey Lee Superintendent Kevin Polston.

Polston says the MDHHS order is something his district prepared for in their return to learning program at the beginning of the school year.

“The students who are best able to learn remotely are high school students. They are afforded that opportunity, but we know that remote learning for some of our youngest learners is a challenge at best,” Polston said.

Another part of the state health department’s order will require already severely impacted restaurants and bars to move to takeout, delivery and outdoor dining only.

“We can make it another few months, but if this goes on until next summer, it’s going to be tough,” said Mark Sellers, who owns recently opened Max’s South Seas Hideaway in downtown Grand Rapids.

He says without government assistance soon, many local restaurants and bars will not make it out of a second closure.

“The PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans that were given out in April and May really did help. They had a huge impact. Pretty much every restaurant is done with that now. They’ve exhausted those funds. If there’s not another round of government stimulus, you’re going to see a massive wave of restaurant closures,” Sellers said.

Sellers says if this set of restrictions goes on past the three weeks, it will change the landscape of the industry leaving behind mostly chain restaurants.

MDHHS says these restrictions take effect Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. They are set to last for three weeks.

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