Lansing, MI–Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday allowing bars, restaurants and retail stores in Northern Michigan to resume some in person operations beginning Friday.

The relaxed restrictions apply to regions six and eight of Whitmer’s MI Safe Start plan, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City area.

Region eight accounts for 3% of the state’s population and just 0.2% of the state’s overall cases of COVID-19.

The eight regions of Michigan under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan.

Restaurants and bars that reopen will be required to limit their capacity to 50% and keep groups at least six feet apart.

Waiting areas will be closed and customers will be asked to wait in their vehicle for a call when their table is ready.

Servers will be required to wear face masks, provided by the businesses, and a self-screening must be conducted daily by employees entering the workplace.

Self-serve areas like buffets and drink stations will remain closed, and shared items like menus, condiments, chairs and tables must be cleaned after each customer.

Employees will be trained on how to appropriately use personal protective equipment, food safety health protocols and how to manage symptomatic customers that enter the restaurant.

If an employee shows multiple symptoms of COVID-19, the restaurant will be required to close immediately and perform a deep clean consistent with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, will be installed at areas like cash registers, bars, host stands and other areas where it is difficult to maintain a distance of six feet.

Signs posted at the entrance will instruct customers not to enter if they are or have recently been sick and to wear face masks until they reach their table.

Local governments will be allowed to impose additional restrictions, like limiting restaurants to outdoor seating.

The order does not reopen other businesses closed under Whitmer’s executive order, like movie theaters and casinos.

Whitmer discouraged people who live in other regions of the state, with higher case counts, from visiting the regions that are reopening – especially ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

“If you don’t live in these regions, please think long and hard before you take a trip into them,” Whitmer said. “Don’t descend on Traverse City from all regions of this state.”

While regions six and eight have moved into phase four of Whitmer’s MI Safe Start plan, the other six regions of the state remain in the third phase.

The six phases of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Safe Start plan.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said that officials will continue to monitor other areas of the state.

“We are continuing to monitor other areas of the state where case numbers are declining but they are not quite ready to move to stage four,” Khaldun said.

Genesee County is in region one, which also includes Detroit and accounts for the majority of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

Khaldun said that while there are positive signs in the region, they’re not ready to have restrictions eased yet.

“The Detroit region continues to see improvements in the decline in cases, but they still have a relatively high rate at 27 cases per 1 million people per day,” Khaldun said. “This area has also seen an increase over the past week in the percent of tests that are positive.”

Michigan had 51,142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Sunday, and 4,891 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 1,866 are in Genesee County, and 230 people in the county have died from the virus.

Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a freelance reporter covering politics and policy in Michigan. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first started covering politics during the 2016 presidential...