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Michigan restaurants and bars have to take customer info for COVID-19 contact tracing under new order


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Put your hands on your hips, folks. We're about to do the pandemic time warp as COVID-19 cases surge across the state.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revised Michigan's emergency order on Thursday, dialing back on indoor gatherings sizes and expanding restaurant and bar protocols in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the state reported 3,675 new coronavirus cases, making it the most cases in a single day since the first cases were detected in March. COVID-19-related hospitalizations have also doubled over the last three weeks, and the death rate has also been on the rise.

The order's new provisions reduce indoor and nonresidential gatherings to just 50 people. Previously, indoor gatherings of 500 were permitted under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order issued in June.

“The only way to beat COVID is to act on what we’ve learned since March,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a press release. “Wear masks. Keep six feet of distance. Wash hands. And avoid the indoor get-togethers where we have seen COVID explode.”

Per a press release, indoor gatherings are “as much as 20 times likelier to drive outbreaks than outdoor settings,” as evidenced by Michigan's recent 34 outbreaks associated with weddings, bridal showers, vacations, birthday parties, bowling alleys, and church services, which are linked to 19 outbreaks resulting in 52 positive COVID-19 cases. Under the new provisions, however, church services remain exempt from capacity limitations and closures.

The revised order also targets new protocols for bars and restaurants, which requires staff to document contact information for each guest to aid in possible contact tracing efforts. Currently, Michigan has reported 12 recent outbreaks tied to bars and restaurants with “active clusters up to 12 cases.”

In addition to gathering contact information from guests, restaurants and bars are now asked to reduce the number of people from different households to six people per table.

Last week, the state's Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, asked Michiganders to strongly consider choose take-out over dining in, as a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found adults who tested positive for the coronavirus were twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant two weeks before reporting symptoms.

As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches, the order also outlines ways in which individuals can celebrate safely, including gathering outside whenever possible, combining no more than two households totaling a maximum of 10 people, and wearing a mask at all times other than to eat or drink.

The order also suggests that people do not share utensils and, what seems nearly impossible to do in 2020, keep voices low, citing that speaking loudly or yelling can “increase COVID transmission by 30 times.”

*screams silently*

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