July 16, 2020 – Many downtown Ann Arbor merchants and restaurants have enjoyed some relief from the COVID-19 business impacts due, in part, to the city’s decision to close several streets to vehicle traffic Fridays–Sundays (details at www.a2gov.org/news/pages/article.aspx?i=699). However, city officials are now sharing that the closures are at risk of being cut short from the original Aug. 23 end date.
“We’ve experienced large crowds downtown since the street closures began June 12,” notes Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. “Although we’re delighted people are enjoying themselves, we’re also discouraged that some folks choose not to wear a mask when walking around downtown. Face coverings limit the spread of COVID-19. It’s as simple as that. Everyone downtown should wear a mask.” City and Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority efforts to promote wearing masks and keeping a 6-foot distance via merchant and street signage are still being ignored by some patrons, even with the recent uptick of coronavirus cases in Washtenaw County.
Officials are hopeful the State of Michigan Executive Order July 13, 2020, mandating face coverings be worn indoors and in crowded outdoor areas will help reinforce their efforts. “We can’t emphasize enough the importance of the shared responsibility we all have to follow the executive order to wear a face mask,” said Interim City Administrator Tom Crawford. “Plainly put, if you are visiting the downtown area, you should wear a mask at all times, unless seated at tables that are distanced from one another. It is a small inconvenience to wear a mask compared to the cost of not doing so. If widespread mask-wearing isn’t achieved, the city will have no choice other than to discontinue the street closures downtown. Our local businesses and employees are doing their part; we need visitors and patrons to do their part as well.”
When the street closures resume for the weekend on Friday, July 17, visitors will see an increased emphasis reminding them that mask-wearing is mandatory. “The approach will be welcoming and friendly, but we are taking this very seriously,” Crawford said. “If our efforts fail, downtown businesses may need to return to pickup/delivery only.”
The city’s expectations are consistent with other protocols being set in the community. University of Michigan has announced that all faculty, staff, students and visitors are being required to wear a face covering everywhere on campus — indoors and outdoors — and inside U-M buses. Ann Arbor Public Schools also shares the city’s emphasis on the importance of wearing a mask. “We each have a role to serve in contributing to a healthy Ann Arbor,” said Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift. “By wearing our masks now, we can support our community to realize the improvement needed to return our children safely to school in the fall.”