Editorial: Twelve (more) Days of Christmas shutdown

Detroit News

DETROIT — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her partial shutdown of Michigan’s economy Monday, tacking on another 12 days, taking the closures nearly to Christmas. That means bars and restaurants that’ve had to suspend indoor service the past three weeks will be unlikely to benefit from the typical holiday boost.

Other entertainment venues will also remain shuttered. So will in-person learning at high schools and colleges.

The governor cited continued high new cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the virus. The numbers are still surging despite the partial shutdown of the past three weeks.

Whitmer erred on the side of caution in issuing a shorter extension until Dec. 20. We understand that instinct, though we question its wisdom.

We’d urge the governor to heed the pleas of the business community and use these next 12 days to honestly assess whether the selective closings actually work.

If the numbers continue to rise unabated during the extension, she should lift the order and come up with another plan.

Whitmer faces a difficult task with few tools at her disposal. The shutdown of bars and restaurants was an easy response, but not one guaranteed to work. Health experts fear much of the virus transmission is happening between family members. Homes are largely outside the governor’s regulatory reach.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants that can’t let customers inside are suffering immensely, without the certainty that their sacrifice is making a difference in slowing the spread.

One-quarter of the state’s restaurants are in danger of closing permanently, and 250,000 hospitality workers are expected to be unemployed over the holidays. Keeping those establishments closed is devastating to those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

Over these next several days the Whitmer administration should work with the businesses on a plan for their safe reopening. What additional safety protocols can they put in place to make their dining rooms safer? How can the state help?

The answer can’t be yet another extension on Dec. 20. If that’s her only answer, many of the impacted businesses will never reopen.

The administration must honestly weigh the damage being done to the economy and to workers against the effectiveness of the shutdown.

Detroit News

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