The JCC, local delis and Frankel Jewish Academy are among the institutions shifting their plans.
As a result of the state of Michigan entering a new three-week period of restrictions intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, many Jewish Detroit businesses will be feeling the effects for the order’s duration.
The orders were announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in a press conference on Sunday, Nov. 15, and go into effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Major new restrictions include suspending in-person instruction at all colleges and high schools, while allowing K-8 instruction to continue in-person; closing all organized sports and group exercise classes; closing indoor dining at restaurants; closing all movie theaters, casinos, bowling alleys, indoor ice rinks and bingo halls; and strongly urging all businesses to work from home if possible.
Heidi Budaj, the assistant executive director of the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit, says the new guidelines will be affecting the center in a number of ways.
Because the new restrictions prohibit group exercise activities, the JCC’s planned re-opening of its indoor pool and track will be postponed until further notice, Budaj said. The facilities were originally on track to re-open by early November.
The state’s orders permit individual exercise in gyms and pools, but the JCC’s facilities are not equipped for proper social distancing restrictions, so they will remain closed.
“We don’t feel like we could be in compliance with those requirements while opening the track and/or the swimming pool,” Budaj said. “Our lanes are not 12 feet apart on the track or in the pool, and we don’t feel like we could comply with the new restrictions if we were to open.”
The JCC also previously had employees coming into the building to work, but will now be asking them to work from home.
Steve Goldberg, owner of Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, understands why the restrictions need to take place.
“I don’t think (Whitmer) had any choice, Goldberg said. “The pandemic numbers are pretty startling and it seems like a prudent thing to do to try to address the spread.”
Just as they did in March, Stage Deli will pivot back to carry-out only, including curbside and in-store pickup.
“I certainly hope it’s as short as possible, but life is way more important because a strong economy doesn’t do us any good if we’re not living,” Goldberg said.
Stage Deli had taken many precautions for their return to indoor dining, including reducing seating capacity by 50% and maintaining 6 feet of social distance.
Elvis Vushaj, part-owner of Siegel’s Deli in West Bloomfield, says the order will mostly hurt their waitstaff, with some of them possibly having to be off of work for the timeline of the restrictions.
“I’m not really too happy about it, but this is the day and age we live in,” Vushaj said.
Vushaj said the deli will return to carry-out service only as well, and hopes the restrictions will only last for the three-week period, and not get extended.
“We just have to take it day-by-day, hopefully these vaccines come out, and we can get back to normal soon.”
Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield was one of the high schools that followed state orders to shut down in-person instruction. As part of the transition, FJA is not holding school Tuesday, Nov. 17, in order to shift its staff over to distance learning. Classes will resume Wednesday, remotely.
“We know that our highly skilled, experienced, and creative teachers will continue to provide exemplary and meaningful instruction, and personalized support, for each of our students,” wrote FJA head of school Rabbi Azaryah Cohen in an email to parents.
Synagogues, along with all other houses of worship, continue to be exempt from the new orders. The majority of Michigan’s Reform and Conservative synagogues have gone all-virtual since the start of the pandemic.
Following the new restriction announcements, Jewish MI State Rep. Ryan Berman, who represents Commerce Township, joined a group of other Republican state legislators in calling for Whitmer’s impeachment. The Republicans claimed the governor had committed “impeachable conduct” including ignoring court orders and due process and “using our kids as political pawns.”
Berman did not respond to a JN request for comment.
An advisor on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, tweeted that Michiganders should “rise up” against the new restrictions.
Michigan is seeing record case numbers in the state, with a Saturday update seeing 7,072 new cases and 65 additional deaths added to the total of 251,813 cases and 7,994 deaths. Friday reported a single-day record of 8,516 cases.