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Under Michigan’s new pandemic rules, restaurants can reopen for indoor dining — but they have to track customer’s personal information for contract tracing in the event of possible coronavirus exposure.

To help with that, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) has partnered with Michigan-based hospitality technology company BYOD to supply employee health screening and contact tracing software.

This service is being provided at no cost to MRLA members and $25 per month per location for non-members.

“As a Michigan-based company, BYOD leadership understands the complex environment in which restaurants and other businesses operate in our state to ensure the health and safety of customers and employees,” MRLA President and CEO Justin Winslow said in a statement. “Providing employee health screening and guest contact tracing software enables restaurant owners to effectively and securely do their part as we work toward full reintegration.”

The program utilizes two technologies. With “GUEST PROTECT,” customers with smartphones scan a QR code that prompts them to enter their name, phone number, and email, which is then submitted as encrypted data to a secure Amazon Web Services Cloud storage environment for retrieval if required by the health department. “TEMP PROTECT” screens staff to work by asking them a five-question survey; if they pass the survey, they’re issued a one-day work pass and the responses are then encrypted and stored in a secure cloud environment.

“In the restaurant business, people don’t see all the measures that are handled behind the scenes, but they have always trusted the right protocols were in place,” said Dave Dittenber, owner/founder of BYOD, in a stament. “As we operate within ‘the new normal’ and embrace more public-facing transparency, this technology shows consumers that restaurants are taking the necessary steps to create a safe dining environment.”

More information on the program is available at mrla.org/byod.

Michigan restaurants reopened for indoor dining on Feb. 1, with some restrictions, including reduced capacities and a 10 p.m. curfew. While many restaurant owners and restaurant-goers welcomed the return to “normal,” some owners have decided not to reopen yet, citing the fact that many restaurant workers and most of the general population have not yet been vaccinated. New, highly contagious mutations of the coronavirus are also spreading in Michigan.

On the same day that Michigan officials announced the reopening of indoor dining, the state’s former health director, Robert Gordon, announced his resignation.

Earlier that day, he urged people to avoid indoor dining.

“Today’s announcement is possible because of our progress over the last two months,” Gordon said. “Even so, the science is clear that unmasked, indoor activities like dining and drinking are still a source of high risk around COVID-19. The safest course remains to support your favorite restaurant with carryout, delivery, or outdoor dining.”

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