ALLIANCE CALLS FOR PATHWAY TO REOPENING

Northern Michigan businesses call for metrics and a timeline

NORTHERN MI – The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance called for a comprehensive plan to reopen bars and restaurants after Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a February 1, 2021, reopening at 25 percent capacity. The organization represents 16 chambers and economic development organizations and over 7,000 member businesses from all across northern Michigan. 

Leaders within the organization are relieved to see restrictions on bars and restaurants loosening but say there is a need for a reopening pathway. “We’re thankful to see we are moving towards reopening our bars and restaurants, and now we need a plan with clear metrics for a phased reopening,” said Stacie Bytwork, the chairperson of the Alliance and president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our bars and restaurants cannot continue to operate with this uncertainty, and we need to know what reopening looks like after the next order expires on February 21.”

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association released research conducted in November, which indicated that 5,600 – or 33 percent – of Michigan restaurant operators say it is unlikely they will still be in business in six months. Business owners say a 25 percent capacity limit starting February 1 doesn’t allow them to cover the cost of being in business. “Twenty-five percent capacity does not give us an opportunity to cover our operating costs. We have had months of experience in maintaining COVID-19 safety measures at half capacity,” said Todd Chinnock, General Manager & Sommelier at Pour Kitchen & Bar and General Manager at Tap 30 in Petoskey.

“Our northern Michigan bars and restaurants have proven time and time again that they know how to keep employees and patrons safe,” said Sarah Hagen, the vice-chairperson of the Alliance and president of the Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time to provide this industry with a timeline to fully reopen.”

“We safely operated at half capacity for four months during our busy times this past summer. We worked safely, set up protocols, followed CDC guidelines, and invested significant funds into sanitation equipment. Our entire team was on board with keeping themselves and our guests safe,” said Owner/Chef Darren Romano of Charlevoix’s Grey Gables Inn Restaurant & Catering.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continues to support chambers, economic development organizations, and their member businesses by providing timely information and advocating for rural business needs primarily at the state level. The Alliance is engaged in delivering industry-specific information, access to funding opportunities, and ensuring the northern Michigan voice is represented in reopening discussions. More information on the Alliance’s latest work can be found at nmichiganbusiness.com.

About the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance:

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is a coalition of chambers and economic development organizations including the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce, Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce, Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Traverse Connect, Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce, Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce, Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce, Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, & Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The Alliance exists to advocate for rural northern Michigan and move forward rural-centric business policy.

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MDHHS Three-Week Epidemic Order & MIOSHA Emergency Rules – 11/15/20

MDHHS Three-Week Epidemic Order

On Sunday, November 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates. The order takes effect Wednesday, November 18 and is in place through December 8.

Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time; however, MDHHS strongly urges families to pick one single household to interact with over the next three weeks, consistent with new guidance released by the department. The order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where COVID-19 spreads rapidly.

  • Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out, and delivery only.
  • A gathering at a retail store, library, or museum must not exceed 30% of total occupancy limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal.
    • A retail store, library, or museum may permit one customer at a time to enter if strict adherence to the 30% total occupancy limit would otherwise result in closure.
  • Gatherings are prohibited at entertainment venues, including auditoriums, arenas, banquet halls, cinemas, conference centers, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, stadiums, and theaters.
  • Gatherings are also prohibited at recreational facilities and places of public amusement, including amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, casinos, night clubs, skating rinks, strip clubs, water parks, and trampoline parks.
  • Gatherings at exercise facilities must not exceed 25% of the total occupancy limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal, but gatherings for group fitness activities or classes are prohibited.
  • Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators; however, all other organized sports must stop.
  • Colleges and high schools may proceed with remote learning, but must end in-person classes.

This order should be applied to businesses, along with the requirements in the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Emergency Rules (more info below).

It should be noted in regard to masks, the order states under section 7 (d): “A person responsible for a business, store, office, government office, school, organized event, or other operation, or an agent of such person, may not assume that someone who enters the facility without a face mask falls within one of the exceptions specified in section 8 of this order, including the exception for individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face mask. An individual’s verbal representation that they are not wearing a face mask because they fall within a specified exception, however, may be accepted.”

Additional Resources

MIOSHA Emergency Rules

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, within the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), promulgated Emergency Rules which clarify the safety requirements employers must follow to protect their employees from COVID-19.

Much of the requirements under the Emergency Rules were included in former Executive Orders, now rescinded. Under the Emergency Rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Special attention should be paid to the language on remote work under 5(8): “The employer shall create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.” More information on what that policy should look like can be found in the State’s FAQ.

MIOSHA’s Emergency Rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, and restaurants and bars. Industries that were previously required to provide mandatory temperature checks, including the manufacturing sector, are no longer required to do so and instead required to, under 6(1), “[…] conduct a daily entry self-screening protocol for all employees or contractors entering the workplace, including, at a minimum, a questionnaire covering symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19, together with, if possible, a temperature screening.”

To further protect workers from the increased spread of COVID-19, MIOSHA launched a State Emphasis Program (SEP) focused on office settings that addresses the need for increased vigilance, education, and enforcement on remote work policies. MIOSHA will conduct inspections at workplaces with traditional office settings to review how rules are being followed and enhance compliance. While inspections will seek to help employers comply with safety standards, if the inspections determine deficiencies in the employer’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plans, citations, and penalties up to $7,000 may be issued.

A set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety provides businesses with the guidelines they and their employees must follow and includes a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place. Businesses can also find posters for employees and customers, factsheets, and educational videos.

Additional Resources

The contents of this web page are made available to you for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice on any matter. This material may not reflect the most current COVID-19 developments and is subject to revision. In no event will Traverse Connect be liable for any decisions made or action taken in relation upon the information provided through this document.

New MDHHS Order 10/29/20

On Thursday, Oct. 29, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) revised and extended its epidemic order. This comes as the previous order was set to expire on Oct. 30, 2020. Although most of the order is unchanged, new provisions target indoor gatherings where COVID has spread most rapidly. There are also enforcement mechanisms for these orders.

This MDHHS order is effective immediately, although restaurants and bars have until Nov. 2 to comply with contact tracing requirements. This order remains in effect until rescinded.

Order highlights

  • The maximum gathering size for indoor gatherings such as weddings, parties, and banquets which occur in nonresidential settings without fixed seating is reduced from 500 persons to 50 persons, and attendance is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet in each occupied room.
  • For bars, restaurants, and social events outside private homes, indoor party sizes at a single table are now restricted to six people.
  • As of Nov. 2, bars and restaurants must maintain accurate records of the names and phone numbers of patrons who purchase food for consumption on the premises, and the date and time of entry.
  • The order treats all regions of the state the same; the Traverse City region (region 6) has now been moved into Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan.
  • This infographic outlines the highlights of the order.
  • All order requirements (not just highlights) are detailed in this infographic.

Phase 4

There are several requirements that have been tightened in region 6 with the move down to phase 4. This means that the new epidemic order applies consistently across the state:

  • Retail is impacted by this move and retail capacity is back to 50% of total occupancy limits.
  • Fixed and non-fixed seating event limitations are now in-line with the rest of the state.
  • Face masks in schools are now the same across the state.

Enforcement

Violations are punishable by a civil fine up to $1,000 and may also be treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200, or both. In addition, failure to comply with orders may violate a business or professional’s licensure requirements or present a workplace safety violation.

MIOSHA Emergency Rules

The requirements of the MDHHS order should be coordinated with the MIOSHA Emergency Rules, which clarify the safety requirements employers must follow to protect their employees from COVID-19.

  • Much of the requirements under the Emergency Rules were included in former Executive Orders, now rescinded.
  • Under the Emergency Rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees.
  • A notable difference in these rules is language on remote work under 5(8): “The employer shall create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.”
  • MIOSHA’s Emergency Rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, and restaurants and bars.
  • Industries that were previously required to provide mandatory temperature checks, including the manufacturing sector, are no longer required to do so and instead required to, under 6(1), “[…] conduct a daily entry self-screening protocol for all employees or contractors entering the workplace, including, at a minimum, a questionnaire covering symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19, together with, if possible, a temperature screening.”

A set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety provides businesses with the guidelines they and their employees must follow and includes a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place. Businesses can also find posters for employees and customers, factsheets, and educational videos.

Additional Resources

The contents of this web page are made available to you for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice on any matter. This material may not reflect the most current COVID-19 developments and is subject to revision. In no event will the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance be liable for any decisions made or action taken in relation upon the information provided through this document. 

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