Michigan doctors say restaurants shouldn’t rush to reopen

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

A group of Michigan physicians Tuesday released a statement calling restaurant owners to avoid the  rush to reopen dining rooms in the name of public health. 

The call comes a day after a letter from restauranteurs Joe and Rosalie Vicari leaked to the media that asked for fellow business owners to band together and reopen dining rooms on Dec. 9 even if the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order is expanded. The three-week order bans indoor dining at bars and restaurants Nov. 18-Dec. 8. 

Waiter Eddie Henderson sets a table at Joe Muer Seafood located at the Renaissance Center in Detroit on Friday, September 11, 2020 as Covid-19 has hurt the business.

“COVID-19 is an opportunistic pathogen always on the lookout for a human host, and prematurely reopening dining rooms while infections remain high is to serve people to the coronavirus on a silver platter,” said Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, MD FAAP, in a statement Tuesday. “All of us want people to get back to work and businesses to reopen responsibly, but Mr. Vicari’s call to reopen no matter the health risk is reckless. Data and evidence show that restaurants, bars and cafes are places with the highest likelihood for COVID-19 transmissions, and as physicians, we urge these businesses to help reduce infections by following expert scientific advice so we can all do our part to help keep people safer." 

Opara, an internal medicine pediatrics physician in Detroit, also pointed to the fact that Michigan hospitals are running low on beds and will put more lives at risk. 

The media alert, sent by a group of frontline doctors called the Committee to Protect Medicare, also refers to a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that said adults who tested positive for COVID-19 “were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative” COVID-19 test results. 

“We understand that these protections against COVID-19 can add financial stress on already strained businesses and are sympathetic, however, these businesses will suffer more devastating damage if customers and staff continue to fall ill and possibly succumb to this unpredictable infection,” said Opara, adding that the federal government should provide interim assistance to help small businesses so they don't have to "recklessly reopen and endanger more people." 

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, which has sued the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services over the most recent ban on indoor dining, says that only 4.4% of outbreaks in Michigan have stemmed from bars and restaurants. 

Outbreak reporting from the MDHHS published Monday details that 11 recent outbreak cases came from bars and restaurants out of 222 total. The report explains that many factors may result in significant underreporting of outbreaks, including inadequate contact tracing in certain settings. 


Twitter: @melodybaetens