The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday issued an emergency order putting a three-week pause on large indoor social gatherings and group activities, plus another round of restrictions on businesses with indoor services — all aimed at stalling the rapid rise of COVID-19 infection rates, which threaten to overwhelm hospitals.
Just Thursday, Grand Traverse County’s Health Department changed course as widespread community contagion no longer allows for contract tracing, except in high-priority cases. The county’s case count has risen by 500 since Nov. 1, our tested positivity rates tripling from 3.4 percent in October to 10 percent today. COVID-19 is insidious because many people carrying it don’t know they’re infected. But some people who breath in the virus get very sick, some die, and scientists don’t yet know if COVID-19 may leave recovered patients with long-term health issues.
Still, the restrictions can be a tough pill to swallow, especially for our businesses and workers that have already endured so much.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association on Tuesday filed suit to try and have the executive order declared unconstitutional. Without court intervention, the ban on indoor dining could lead to the “outright devastation” of restaurants and their thousands of employees, said Justin Winslow, association president and CEO.
It’s impossible to forecast how many restaurants and other businesses may end up teetering on the cliff of bankruptcy by the time the pandemic is brought under control.
The economic distress of thousands of Michigan service workers is tragic collateral damage from the effort.
But we balk at hopelessness, as there is much we can do, as individuals — and as a state — to brace against these losses, as we believe these measures are necessary to preserve the ability for our hospitals to treat the sick.
As individuals, we can take special care to shop local delivery options, as our businesses rely on this season’s sales. Ordering takeout and curbside from our restaurants will help them, too.
We also need to remind our state leaders of their responsibility to think creatively instead of kicking the can down the road, while blaming our woes on the federal government.
While it would be great if our national leaders would cooperate with each other on an aid package, Michigan leaders control many programs and funds that could help those in need of them this year. Let’s start there, and stop the blame game.
The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity reports that more than $25 bill- ion in unemployment benefits has been paid to Michigan workers since March 15. Our businesses are workers will need more help.
We also need hope — remember we’ve flattened the curve before and can do so again.
American ingenuity is working at full speed toward an effective vaccine. But until most Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19, it’s essential to strike a balance between health and economy. We hope the state’s improved and better-staffed unemployment system will help workers and businesses navigate these next three weeks.
This bitter pill is hard to swallow, but it’s an integral part of the cure. Mourning our losses for three weeks will help Michigan avoid mourning more of its citizens in the coming months.