State Rep. Ben Frederick personally called upon Governor Gretchen Whitmer to end the statewide indoor dining ban and allow local restaurants to create a safe dining experience for their patrons.

   On Monday, Jan. 11, Frederick, R-Owosso, sent Gov. Whitmer a letter imploring her to end the statewide ban on dine-in options for Michiganders immediately. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a new epidemic order allowing indoor group exercise and non-contact sports. The ban on indoor dining remains in effect but may be rescinded on Monday, Feb. 1.

   Frederick’s letter to the governor follows in its entirety:

   The three-week “pause” on indoor dining at restaurants your administration called for on Nov. 18, 2020 has now lasted nearly two months. An estimated 2,000 Michigan restaurants have already permanently closed during this pandemic, and the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association reports thousands more are hanging on by a thread – at risk of going out of business within the next few months.

   Tens of thousands of employees and their families have been left to navigate a fraud-riddled and dysfunctional unemployment insurance system. Closing the restaurant industry has also again wreaked havoc on the supply chain, which has an outsized impact on Michigan’s broader economy and continues to pose challenges to procuring other supplies for Michiganders.

   Prior to the “pause” announcement, restaurateurs were engaging in good faith with further solutions related to occupancy, contact tracing, partitions, and other changes to accommodate safety concerns. Many have already spent thousands of dollars making changes to meet previous guidance from the state.

   If a statewide indoor dining ban with no path to reopening is truly the only option available in addressing COVID-19, there is a responsibility to be transparent regarding any strong evidence supporting such actions specific to a single economic sector. Such evidence has not been adequately presented by your administration to the people of Michigan, and it is therefore imperative the ban on in-person dining at bars and restaurants be ended immediately.

   The following points demonstrate the arbitrary nature of the present ban:

• Even at its peak, Michigan’s COVID-19 cases linked to restaurants were at 5.5 percent – and that link was tenuous at best. This statistic simply stated the number of cases where the person who tested positive had dined at a restaurant; it did not confirm that is where COVID was contracted.

   The studies your administration has pointed to supporting the ban are woefully insufficient. One relies heavily on reported transmission from a single person at a South Korean restaurant, without clear evidence on where the virus was actually contracted and whether the assumption of air patterns within that restaurant are likely to be duplicated.

• Another study concludes individuals who tested positive were more likely to have reported dining in a restaurant, but is limited to telephone interviews of 154 people who tested positive and 160 who tested negative. It’s not clear if this limited survey based on results from 11 health-care facilities across the U.S. has relevance to Michigan and factors such as methodology and its small sample size fails to show causation to such a degree justifying a statewide ban.

• A third study relies heavily on mobile phone data from 10 of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, tracking movements in what are described as “points of interest” – a speculative analysis. It should be noted that flaws in assumptions based on cell phone tracking were clearly demonstrated by your administration on the expectation that people had engaged in risky gathering behavior over the Thanksgiving holiday, which ended up not resulting in any significant surge in new coronavirus cases.

• A fourth item cited is even more speculative and is in fact not even a study but a chart correlating credit card sales at restaurants as a predicator of COVID infection rates.

• Suggested benefits of the dine-in ban are undercut further by the growing use of small, closed-in eating receptacles dotting sidewalks and parkways within yards of empty buildings, many of which have recently undergone expensive upgrades to meet earlier safety requirements.

   There is no doubt that dining with others is a treasured social activity across our state. What is not seemingly considered within your administration’s response is the capacity for restaurateurs to create a safe dining experience, and the ability for competent and sound decision-making on the part of patrons. The stories of hardship are everywhere. Restaurant employees trying to provide for themselves and their children are at a financial breaking point. Families whose livelihoods revolve around operating a small restaurant are draining life savings, struggling to make ends meet, and getting in deeper financial trouble every single day that statewide restrictions continue.

   It is past time to restore both certainty and hope to our citizenry who own, work for, and frequent our state’s treasured restaurants. I therefore implore you and your administration to end the statewide ban on dine-in options for Michiganders immediately.

Rep. Frederick Urges Governor to End Statewide Indoor Dining Ban was last modified: January 19th, 2021 by Karen Elford