Power Island from Chateau Chantal on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Power Island from Chateau Chantal on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Yesterday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Order that dials back some businesses in northern Michigan to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Executive Order No. 2020-160 mandates that businesses in northern Michigan (Region 6) and the Upper Peninsula (Region 8) which earn more than 70 percent of their profit from alcohol sales must close down indoor service.

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The new order also mandates that indoor gatherings in the Traverse City area and Upper Peninsula are now limited to ten people or less. These directives, which begin at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 31, bring these two regions in line with the rest of the state.

Why the New Executive Order?

In a press release outlining the order, Gov. Whitmer said the new mandates are the result of multiple outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus linked to social gatherings in places like East Lansing, Saline and Torch Lake. In short, cases are rising.

“Where Michigan was once among the states most heavily hit by COVID-19, our per-capita rate of new daily cases is now roughly one-third of the national average,” noted Whitmer. “Our progress in suppressing the disease, however, appears to have stalled. Cases have risen over the past month – from a rolling seven-day average of 354 cases per day on June 30 to 692 cases on July 28, a two-fold increase.”

She said the resurgence of the virus is closely associated with super-spreading events at large social gatherings, often attended by young people. More than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline; an outbreak at Harper’s Bar in East Lansing has resulted in 187 infections to date; and the annual sandbar party at Torch Lake over the July 4th weekend has led to at least 43 confirmed cases.

What exactly does this mean for the Old Mission Peninsula and Traverse City area? Can we go to bars, restaurants, wineries or churches? Can we vote at our precinct? Can we get together with friends? Read on.

You Can Still Go to a Bar – Outside

As mentioned, Executive Order No. 2020-160 mandates that businesses in northern Michigan which earn more than 70 percent of their profit from alcohol sales must close down indoor service.

They may, however, continue to serve customers in outdoor spaces like patios or the expanded area in Downtown Traverse City, after portions of Front Street were closed to vehicle traffic in June.

You Can Still Go to Breweries and Wineries – With Restrictions

Breweries, distilleries and wineries are exempt from the order. However, as previously ordered in Executive Orders 2020-96 and 2020-97, they must operate at 50 percent capacity and follow social distancing guidelines. Read more about those guidelines here.

Most of the wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula have expanded their outdoor areas, including installing roof-only tents, umbrellas, pergolas, freestanding awnings or sunsails for outdoor gatherings, as allowed by the Peninsula Township Board at their meeting on June 23, 2020.

This easing of restrictions to help the Old Mission Peninsula wineries during the COVID-19 pandemic is in place through the end of 2020.

You Can Still Go To Church

Churches and places of worship are exempt from the order, because of the separation of church and state, Gov. Whitmer noted in a Fox News Sunday appearance in March. “That’s an area we don’t have the ability to directly enforce and control.”

Despite the exemption, however, Gov. Whitmer continues to encourage people to not attend church because of the close quarters and elderly population of churchgoers. To my knowledge, most churches in the Traverse City area are doing Zoom worship or outdoor/parking lot worship.

You Can Go to a Movie or Arcade – If It’s Open

In the Traverse City area, these indoor venues may be open, as long as people not in the same household stay six feet apart and the number of people in the venue is limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity or 250, whichever is smaller: indoor arcade, bowling alley, cinema, climbing facility, convention center, performance space, meeting hall, sports arena, theater, or similar indoor venues.

As with everything else, social distancing protocols must be in place. Also, many of these venues remain closed in northern Michigan, likely because they would be losing money to operate at 25 percent capacity. The State Theatre, Bijou by the Bay, and AMC Classic Cherry Blossom 14 remain closed.

You Can Gather With Friends Indoors – With Ten People or Less

The new Executive Order also madates that indoor gatherings be limited to ten people or less, a restriction we haven’t seen since the Safer At Home executive order months ago.

However, the ten-person indoor limit does not apply to everything. Incidental gatherings of people at places like the airport, bus station, factory floor, restaurant, shopping mall, public pool, or workplace are allowed.

Outdoor gatherings for northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula remain at 250 people or less, and 100 people or less for the rest of the state – with social distancing protocols in place.

You Can Vote at Your Local Precinct

As noted in the Executive Order, section 7(d), polling places are exempt from the ten-person limit on indoor gatherings.

This means you can vote at your local precinct, including for the August 4 primary next Tuesday. Peninsula Township polling places will be open that day; however, they will be ensuring social distancing and sanitization protocols.

Also yesterday, Gov. Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-161, which mandates safeguards to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19. Read more about that here.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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