- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday extended the state’s coronavirus ban on indoor dining until at least Feb. 1, frustrating Republicans and small-business advocates who accused her of crushing the state’s restaurant industry.

The Democratic governor’s latest novel coronavirus order lifted restrictions on indoor fitness classes and non-contact sports, but kept the lockdown on indoor restaurant dining, night clubs, contact sports, waterparks and workplaces “when work can be done from home.”

“We are working on a path to allow indoor dining at restaurants with safety measures such as mask requirements, capacity limits, and a curfew starting on Feb. 1,” said Ms. Whitmer at a press conference, adding, “We need to get this right.”

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, blasted what he called her “continued abuse of families and their livelihoods.”

“I’m dismayed by Governor Whitmer’s continued closure of local businesses,” Mr. Shirkey said in a statement. “This is another display of the tone-deaf response we continue to hear from the Governor. Overreach by the Governor has crippled an entire industry and peripheral supply chain businesses.”

He said the “notion that she can select a perfect time for restaurants to open as opposed to allowing these local businesses to open when they are ready, continues the ‘government knows best’ attitude from the executive branch that is causing people and capital to leave Michigan,” he said.

Michigan state Sen. Jim Stamas proposed Wednesday that legislators block Ms. Whitmer’s appointments until she lifts the COVID-19 business restrictions.

“Michigan is one of only a handful of states still prohibiting indoor dining but — unlike other states with closed restaurants — Michigan doesn’t have plans or metrics in place to set a path for reopening,” Mr. Stamas said in a statement in the Detroit News.

Only three states — Illinois, Michigan and Washington — as well as the District of Columbia have banned indoor dining statewide. Some states allow indoor dining on a county-by-county basis determined by factors related to infection rates and hospitalizations, according to OpenTable, the reservation app.

In Michigan, Amy Heikkinen, the owner of Café Rosetta, has refused to close despite being fined $1,000 per day. The restaurant “continues to achieve record sales and sees people driving on a daily basis over 6 hours away,” according to the anti-lockdown group All Business is Essential.

The group blasted the governor’s “relentless attack on small business,” with founder Erik Kiilunen saying that “these lockdowns are tearing our society apart.”

Ms. Whitmer emphasized that the state’s progress in combating COVID-19 remains “very tenuous.”

“I know that the numbers are overwhelming and this moment has been hard, but I was aghast when I saw the national reporting last night that we lost 4,300 people in one 24-hour period in this nation,” she said. “We’re having a 9/11 event every day in this country. This virus is still a very real threat.”

The Michigan Department of Health reported Tuesday another 1,994 cases, bringing the total to 525,612, and 100 confirmed deaths, including 50 from a vital-records review, for 13,501 fatalities total since the start of the pandemic. Michigan has a population of nearly 10 million.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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