Now that indoor dining has reopened in Michigan, restaurants are being asked to voluntarily comply with the state’s new “MI COVID-19 Safer Dining” program.
Restaurants that want to become a certified safe dining space will have to work with a licensed HVAC contractor who can recommend changes to air ventilation to improve circulation and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
The American Society for Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has been guiding multiple states in writing new codes regarding indoor air issues, recommending a certification checklist businesses can follow to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The CDC, EPA, and MI-OSHA are also helping businesses navigate this process, helping them develop "best practices" moving forward.
Sean Egan, director of Michigan COVID Workplace Safety, says it is recommended that every work environment that has people indoors adopt these practices, but it is specifically designed for bars and restaurants. Egan says this is a complex voluntary program, where the requirements and cost may vary with each business. Some buildings will be able to make simple adjustments to their existing HVAC systems, while others may need to install a new HVAC system altogether. He notes that all businesses will be able to apply for a grant to help cover the cost of these changes if the governor’s requested $10 million supplemental budget request passes the legislature.
“If your HVAC system can handle what we call ‘MERV 13’ or better -- that’s the efficiency rating of the filter -- and it’s in compliance with the code on the number of air changes per hour, you can simply certify your existing system,” Egan said. “If your system can’t do those types of things, we have other options for restaurants to make these types of changes that can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Brann’s Steakhouse on Leonard Street NW in Grand Rapids was part of the first wave of businesses to install a new ion purification system called the I-WAVE, using Service Professor. Special discounts are available for anyone who calls Service Professor after reading this article. For anyone located outside of West Michigan, feel free to find a contractor closest to you by searching Michigan Saves, which is a link provided on the state’s Safer Dining Program website.
“These products kind of work like a mousetrap verses a cat,” said Brad Krause, president and owner of Service Professor. ”The cat goes out and gets the mouse, and that’s what the I-WAVE does: it goes out and attacks the virus."
Krause says they're offering $100 off for restaurants who choose to install one of these systems. When describing one of these purification systems, Egan said they're likely top-of-the-line and act as a tier-one mitigation tool. However, businesses need to couple it with all other pieces of the state's Safer Dining Program.
"You can buy a Ferrari or a Chevy Cruze to get to work; both are going to be effective," Egan said. "Know that there are a lot of lower-cost, effective tools that you can implement with this program that will get you certified."
As for the restaurant owners, Tommy Brann at Brann’s Steakhouse told FOX 17 the peace of mind that comes with an updated system is priceless.
“Anything for our employees and our customers to keep them safe, that’s what’s important to me,” said Brann. “Life is stressful, and I know we serve a purpose in the economy and in people’s lives.”