MI restaurants reopen as study claims COVID restrictions saved thousands

NOW: MI restaurants reopen as study claims COVID restrictions saved thousands

NILES, Mich. -- Michigan restaurants welcomed diners for the first time in nearly four months as the state continues to lift restrictions on its Pause to Save Lives, which some researchers are now saying did just that.

According to a new study by the University of Michigan, tightening restrictions over the holiday season potentially prevented over 100,000 deaths in Michigan, which had the lowest case count out of all midwestern states.

But how do the restaurant owners feel after barely keeping their business afloat because of the shutdown?

The owner of Harvest Café in Niles said she understood the reasoning for the state’s second shutdown in November, as cases had been surging in Michigan, but they’re not sure they can fully recover financially from spending all this time being partially closed.

Owner Pamela Sebasty even tried to reopen for dine-in back in December because the bills were mounting.

“We decided to reopen and we received a cease and desist letter from the health department - they were nothing but courteous - but we shut down again to take-out only ,” said Sebasty.

After that warning from the Berrien County Health Department, some customers even organized their own protest outside the restaurant.

“Some of our patrons were frustrated that we couldn’t be open, so that was encouraging that they cared so much,” said Sebasty.

But today, she’s just grateful to be open.

“My husband and I have sunk everything we have into this just trying to stay afloat, so even though restaurants are allowed to reopen they’re not out of the woods,” said Sebasty.

Michigan is also requiring restaurants operate at only 25 percent capacity, close by 10 p.m. and space tables at least six feet apart.
The state is also recommending that restaurants have their ventilation systems inspected by a licensed HVAC contractor to keep air circulation at the safest standards. To opt-in to the program, click here.

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