As Michigan hospitals reach capacity, restaurants rebel against coronavirus orders and remain open

  • At least 60 Michigan restaurants are defying state orders and remaining open for indoor dining. 
  • Owners said they don’t believe public health warnings about the dangers of coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.
  • Many say they can’t afford to operate without indoor dining. 
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Some restaurants in Michigan are refusing to abide by state-mandated measures to quell the spread of the coronavirus, claiming the virus is over-politicized and the science untrustworthy, the Washington Post reported. 

“I don’t think it’s as bad as they’re saying it is,” David Koloski owner of the Sunrise Family Diner told the Post. “The whole thing with the coronavirus is political. I think Democrats are dug in and unwilling to move on this.”

The state is currently on lockdown, but last week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that restaurants can reopen at 25% capacity on February 1. 

Stand Up Michigan, a group of business owners who have held protests against COVID-19 restrictions, has been keeping a running list of restaurants that are defying the order to close indoor dining. Right now there are more than 60 restaurants in 33 counties defying the order.

For weeks, restaurants like the Sunrise Family Diner have remained open for indoor dining with limited enforcement of mask use or social distancing, in part because law-enforcement officials support them and some residents are willing to drive long hours just to publicize their rebuke of Whitmer, the Post reported. 

Koloski told the Post that he simply can’t afford to do takeout-only orders. 

“If we didn’t open, we would have shuttered. Doors closed. Out of a house, out of a job, out of a car. Me and the rest of my staff,” Koloski said. 

He added: “I’m not holding a gun to anybody’s head and making them come here.”

While the state has seen a decrease in cases, 17 of the state’s hospitals are at 90% capacity. 

Read more: Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.

Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital has had several ICU expansions, the Post reported. The facility normally has five to 10 free ICU beds, but 30 to 40 people who need them.

“You see that and you know that there’s a percentage of these folks, once they get COVID, some of them will die. And it doesn’t have to be that way,” Sparrow president Alan Vierling told the Post. “This isn’t like getting leukemia, where you can do everything right and get leukemia and die. With this, you have a choice.”

The overload of patients has meant that Vierling has to have an additional 90 travel nurses who work 12-hour shifts, five days a week. 

Last week, the state recorded 12,535 new cases and 487 deaths compared to 16,452 new cases and 430 deaths the week before, the Detroit News reported. On Saturday, the state had 1,358 new cases. 

Two months after the lockdown was enacted in November, health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told the Post that cases per million people decreased by 70%. 

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