Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

UP to partially open Friday

LANSING — The Upper Peninsula is being allowed to partially reopen from the COVID-19 shutdown order on Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed Executive Order 2020-92, allowing for the reopening of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating in two northern regions of the state. 

“This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe.”

The 15 counties in the U.P., as well as 17 more in northernmost lower Michigan will open as detailed in the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan to re-engage Michigan’s economy.

Cities, villages and townships may choose to take a more cautious course. The order does not abridge local authority to restrict operations of restaurants or bars, including limiting such establishments to outdoor seating.

The partial re-opening order does not change the Michigan stay safe at home emergency order through May 28, said Scott Erickson, Ironwood city manager. 

“My understanding is that the stay safe at home order is still in place,” he said. 

The city of Ironwood is not going to resist the reopening order but will continue to follow the state law and CDC guidelines and encourage residents to do the same. City operations departments are working full time, whether at home or in the case of public safety and public works, are in the field using safety protocols.

“The only difference is that we do not have the Memorial Building open for public traffic and that will change when it is safe for employees and customers coming in,” Erickson said. “We are putting things in place to help with social distancing with lines on the floor and plexiglass shields like you’d see at the grocery store.”

Even with the offices open Erickson said he encourages the public to continue conducting business remotely as much as possible with online payments and virtual meetings. 

“My understanding is that the virus is still there and is not going away just because the city is opening to shopping,” Erickson said. “Be aware of your surroundings and take any safety measures recommended by the CDC and the county health department.

“The data shows that these regions in Michigan are seeing consistent encouraging trends when it comes to the number of cases, deaths, and the percent of tests that are positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief deputy for health and chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s important to note that these businesses must take special precautions to protect Michiganders,” he said. “I also encourage everyone to continue to wear a mask in public, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and to remain vigilant in washing their hands often. This will help prevent a second surge in cases in our state.”

Businesses that reopen in regions six and eight must adopt the safety measures outlined in the executive order.

This includes providing COVID-19 training to workers on infection-control practices, proper use of PPE, reporting unsafe working conditions and notifying the business or operation of any COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis. 

Restaurants and bars must limit capacity to 50% of normal seating and keep groups at least six feet from one another. Servers must wear face coverings and follow disinfection protocols.

State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, said this is good news for the many small bars and restaurants that are struggling to remain open after being restricted to take-out only service since March 16. Retail shops are also suffering, he said.

“I have been pushing the governor’s office to take a regional approach that allows the Upper Peninsula — where we have seen very few cases of COVID-19 — to reopen more quickly,” said Markkanen.

The 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the 110th House District did not justify the same order as communities reporting 10,000 cases, he said. At the same time the businesses that reopen must abide by safety protocols as described in the order, he said.

—Daily Globe staff