Michiganders react to COVID “pause”

Some applaud new efforts to contain COVID by temporarily closing bars, theaters, and some schools. Others call it a death blow to restaurants and a power grab.

A new set of restrictions meant to keep COVID-19 from spreading further has drawn predictable responses from people across the state. Health and school leaders call it a thoughtful move to protect residents. Some political and business leaders call it a jobs killer.

On Sunday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a three week “pause” that restricts in-person classes at high schools and universities, closes theaters and other entertainment venues, and restricts bars and restaurants to outdoor service only. The new rules go into effect Wednesday morning.

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Positive responses: Healthcare leaders see the orders as a carefully-considered effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, which has grown dramatically throughout the state over recent weeks.

“They addressed the riskiest activities, and they narrowed them. They reduced the risk there, but they didn’t cancel everything. I think it was a nice calibrated approach to the epidemic,” said Dr. Richard Van Enk, the director of infection prevention and epidemiology for Bronson Healthcare in an interview with Fox 17.

The chief of infectious disease for WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, Dr. Tom Flynn, said the three week timeline is reasonable.

“I think it’s a beginning. I think we will then hope to see to whether it has any effect, marked effect or limited effect. All of the effects you are going to see is on a delayed timeline anyway,” he said.

Negative responses: People affiliated with businesses, especially bars and restaurants, say the new orders will force more establishments to close down.

“Our industry has been devastated and this is just another nail in the coffin for many businesses,” said Scott Ellis, the CEO of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, in a news release.

“We have to learn to balance economics with this…. When bars and restaurants are at 50 percent, why – again – are they targeted,” he said in an interview with Bridge Michigan.

Some state lawmakers are also firmly opposed to the shutdown. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have decried the Democrat governor for not working with them.

Not enough: Some educational leaders said the new restrictions don’t go far enough.

“With the number of new cases setting records daily, we believe it’s in the best interest of all students and school employees for in-person learning to be temporarily suspended for all grades,” said Paula Herbart, the president of the Michigan Education Association, in a statement.

“We’re saying high school teachers, the risk is there. It’s also for elementary teachers,” said Chris Furlong speaking on behalf of teachers unions in Kalamazoo County. Furlong spoke to WWMT.

Economic hardship: Part of the opposition to the new orders are the effects it will have on people already living on the edge of financial collapse. During the first shutdown in the spring, people had federally-funded unemployment and stimulus to fall back on. That is not the case this time.

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