Lansing, MI–Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Wednesday closing indoor bar service throughout most of lower Michigan as cases of COVID-19 in the state continue to rise.

Bars are allowed to remain open for outdoor service and to serve cocktails-to-go.

The order goes into effect at 11 p.m. Wednesday and applies to establishments that earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from alcohol sales – including bars, nightclubs and strip clubs.

“We owe it to our front line heroes who have sacrificed so much during this crisis to do everything we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the chance of a resurgence like we are seeing in other states,” Whitmer said.

Bars in regions six and eight of the MI Safe Start plan are exempted from the order and can remain open for indoor service.

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

Whitmer’s office said bars are often crowded, indoors, poorly ventilated, encourage mingling among groups, and noisy, requiring customers to raise their voices and allowing for more projection of viral droplets – all of which could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

The move comes after health officials in Ingham County linked 133 cases of COVID-19 to a single bar in East Lansing.

“Following recent outbreaks tied to bars, I am taking this action today to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe,” Whitmer said.

Three states with Republican governors – Arizona, Texas and Florida – recently ordered bars to close again after previously allowing them to reopen.

Whitmer had previously hoped to move the entire state into the fifth phase of the MI Safe Start plan – which would have allowed additional businesses, like movie theaters and gyms, to reopen – by July 4, but said Tuesday that would not happen due to the recent increase in cases in Michigan.

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

“If we open up our economy too quickly, the efforts of the last three months will be for nothing and we will have to go through this pain all over again and put our economy, health and medical system at risk,” Whitmer said. “Nobody wants to move backward.”

Regions six and eight of the state are already in phase five of the plan.

Michigan had 64,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday, and 5,951 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 2,196 are in Genesee County, and 263 people in the county have died from the virus.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...