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Revelers pack bars in defiance of coronavirus warnings. Gov. Whitmer gets serious.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center) holds a press conference about the coronavirus. - STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • State of Michigan
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center) holds a press conference about the coronavirus.

As the coronavirus continued to spread across Michigan, reaching 53 positive cases on Sunday, droves of St. Patrick’s Day revelers ignored health officials’ social-distancing warnings and packed bars in metro Detroit.

On Sunday evening, unfazed partiers packed into 13 bars and restaurants for a four-day St. Patrick’s Day Corktown pub crawl that began Saturday.

“I’m not worried, because alcohol disinfects most things,” one of the revelers, Kevin Kelly, a 37-year-old from Westland, told Deadline Detroit.

A 41-year-old man dismissed concerns, insisting the coronavirus “ain’t airborne,” which is untrue.

On Saturday morning, a large, green-clad crowd packed into The Riv, an East Lansing bar, drawing criticism from one of the city’s council members. Similar scenes play out in cities across the state, especially in college towns.

The parties raged on despite pleas from health officials to avoid crowds and stay at least six feet away from people. On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned gatherings of 250 or more people.

On Monday, the governor went a step further, ordering all bars and dine-in restaurants to close by 3 p.m. — one day before St. Patrick's Day. Restaurants may continue takeout and delivery orders.

Whitmer also ordered the closure of these locations: cafes, coffee houses, clubs, movie theaters, performance venues, gyms, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, spas, and casinos.

At a strongly worded press conference Sunday, Whitmer said it was “incredibly disturbing” to see large gatherings at bars.

While governors in some other states have been slow to act, Whitmer has responded quickly and decisively. She also has ordered all public and private schools to close.

“This disease is a challenge unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Whitmer said. Fighting it will create significant but temporary changes to our daily lives.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Sunday that she had no evidence that bars have violated the order banning gatherings of 250 or more people. But she pledged to enforce the law as health officials warn that the coronavirus is expected to get far worse.

"No one wants a shutdown of the food and beverage industry, but no one wants the coronavirus," Nessel told reporters.

Nessel said bars that violate state mandates risk closure and losing their alcohol licenses.

“We are prepared to enforce the law,” she said.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, acknowledged the state has a shortage of coronavirus testing kits and can’t test a majority of sick people.

“We have capacity challenges,” Khaldun said Sunday. “We continue to request supplies on a daily basis from the federal government so we can test as quickly as possible.”

The state was unable to say how many testing kits are still available but pledged to provide Metro Times with the information Monday.

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