Of the many executive mandates that have been handed down in response to the coronavirus, some have at least made a bit of sense in practical terms while others have been seen as excessively repressive. The latest one in Michigan, however, is simply reminiscent of how the government monitors the personal movement and behavior of citizens in China. According to the latest marching orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services under Governor Gretchen Whitmer, starting on Monday, anyone asking to be served in a bar or restaurant will need to provide their name and phone number to their server. The owners are expected to keep lists containing this information so they can be provided to health officials for contact tracing purposes in the event of an outbreak of COVID. And this isn’t for all businesses in the state, mind you. It’s only the food and beverage service industry. Business owners aren’t thrilled with this new responsibility, to say the least. (Daily Wire)
Michigan officials claim there have been 12 coronavirus outbreaks stemming from bars and restaurants, so now the state wants patrons to provide their name and phone number for future potential contact tracing.
The new rule from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will go into effect on Monday, Fox News reported. Bars and restaurants will also be required to restrict the number of customers to 50 or fewer and allow no more than six people at a single table. Bars and restaurants that don’t follow the new mandate could be fined $1,000.
Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, told Fox 17 that the state already requires restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Further, he said, wait staff are having to deal with customers who don’t appreciate the restrictions.
If you find yourself asking what the big deal is about this rule or why it should be controversial, you’ve probably spent too long in lockdown. While the HHS is describing this as “targeted action” directed is portions of the economy most vulnerable to virus transmission, it’s still a case of the government singling out particular businesses for restrictions while others are not. People go into grocery stores every day that have the same social distancing and maximum occupancy restrictions as bars or restaurants. Why aren’t they collecting the contact information for all of the shoppers? The same could be said for most any other type of business that’s allowed to be open now.
But the problems don’t stop there. What the state government is doing is turning a bunch of private-sector employees into de facto law enforcement officials when they have no training in that area. I seem to recall howls of protest when Texas police were asking suspected illegal immigrants to see their “papers.” But now your waiter gets to do that when you’re suspected of nothing other than ordering a sandwich? A lot of intrusive authority is being delegated to people who are probably very uncomfortable with the notion, to say nothing of having no related experience or training.
Further, the employees are asking for what would normally be considered private information. Women in particular would be fully entitled to feel nervous about giving out their phone number to complete strangers. You can be legally asked to provide identification if you’re ordering alcohol, but that’s only to verify your age, not record your name or contact data. Now you’re going to be handing over that information to a bunch of waiters and bartenders? Who will be storing all of this information at the bars and restaurants and what safeguards are being put in place to make sure that the customers’ privacy is being protected?
This is an authoritarian state maneuver I’d expect to see out of North Korea or China, not one of the fifty states in America. And yet here we are. And I’m guessing that nobody is even going to challenge it in court. Or, if they do, the courts will probably side with HHS in the name of responding to a “state of emergency” that may never end, for all we know.