The diner has a sign at the entrance urging people to wear masks. But recently not all customers were complying. In an article in The Post, Kayla Ruble and Robert Klemko report the diner was full. People were sitting within arm’s length of others in booths. The owner, David Koloski, said of the pandemic, “I don’t think it’s as bad as they’re saying it is.”
The Sunrise Family Diner is among more than 60 restaurants in Michigan that have since November been openly and recklessly flouting a state shutdown that has helped combat the pandemic. The restaurants formed Stand Up Michigan, a group that held rallies against pandemic restrictions, including at the state Capitol. The group’s website declares that “governmental leaders are dangerously experimenting with extreme measures of authoritarian overreach.” It says some measures imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, “have threatened our constitutional freedoms and created additional economic and health challenges to numerous Michiganders.” As for the raging pandemic, the group makes it sound like history: “The American people have come together to overcome a virus that has changed our world.”
Ms. Whitmer announced that, starting Feb. 1, restaurants are allowed to resume 25 percent occupancy of limited dine-in service. But during the shutdown, the defiant restaurants were full — and unapologetic. Jimmy’s Roadhouse in Newaygo became a rallying point, with customers driving for hours to patronize a place where they can show their disdain for masks and whose owner declared “curfews are for comrades.”
Restaurant and bar owners have seen their livelihoods disrupted through no fault of their own, and should get federal assistance. But Stand Up Michigan has taken the defense of rights too far. Personal freedom does not mean the right to endanger others. In the thick of a devastating contagion, it is absolute madness to encourage the kind of behavior — indoor dining at restaurants — that will spread the disease and lead to sickness and death. Less than 40 miles from the Sunrise Family Diner, Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital is running near capacity, thanks to the pandemic. It typically has only five to 10 intensive care unit beds available — and 30 to 40 patients who need them. Seventeen of the state’s hospitals remain at 90 to 100 percent of capacity.
To the patrons of the restaurants who are part of Stand Up Michigan, who don’t wear masks and who defy the rules designed to protect everyone: What if it is you or your parent or child who suddenly gets sick, or has a heart attack, or another emergency, and can’t get one of those hospital beds tomorrow? Is it really worth it?