MDHHS orders continue restrictions in the state
Tue, 10/13/2020 - 11:32am caleb
Department mandate modifies masking requirements, gathering limits that were in place before MI Supreme Court ruled governor’s orders invalid
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
For now, special regulations in the state of Michigan due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are coming through “emergency orders” instead of “executive orders,” continuing the requirements for people to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and limit gatherings.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released the “Emergency Order Under MCL 333.2253 – Gathering Prohibition and Mask Order” on Monday, October 5, after a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision ruled that many of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders were not valid. The emergency order from the MDHHS contained rules limiting gatherings in Michigan and offered regulations regarding the wearing of masks for people in the state.
Four days later, on Friday, October 9, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services rescinded the “Gathering Prohibition and Mask Order” and replaced it with a more detailed version called the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order.”
The MDHHS orders, signed by Robert Gordon, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, contains some of the same content that was in Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-176 and its “Safe Start” successor, Executive Order 2020-183.
“Throughout the pandemic, Michigan has used a range of public health tools and guidance to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public health, including via the Governor’s authority under the Emergency Management Act and the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. On Friday, October 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded that the Governor was not authorized to issue executive orders addressing COVID-19 after April 30, 2020,” according to the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order” from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“To protect vulnerable individuals, ensure the health care system can provide care for all health issues, and prevent spread in schools as we head into the influenza season, we must not permit the spread of COVID-19 to increase. This necessitates continued use of mitigation techniques to restrict gatherings and require procedures in order to reduce the spread of the virus. In the absence of the Governor’s executive orders, it is necessary to issue orders under the Public Health Code addressing these topics,” according to the MDHHS emergency order.
The latest order offers regulations for the following: “Attendance Limitations At Gatherings, Capacity Restrictions, Protection Of Workers, Face Covering Requirement At Gatherings, Exceptions To Face Covering Requirements, Food Service Establishments, Organized Sports, Contact Tracing, Implementation.”
The order defines a “gathering” as “any occurrence where two or more persons from more than one household are present in a shared space.”
“The restrictions imposed by this section do not apply to the incidental gathering of persons in a shared space, including an airport, bus station, factory floor, food service establishment, shopping mall, public pool, or workplace,” according to the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order.”
“Indoor gatherings of up to 10 persons occurring at a residence are permitted (face coverings are strongly recommended for such gatherings). Indoor gatherings of up to 10 persons occurring at a non-residential venue are permitted provided each person at the gathering wears a face covering,” according to the MDHHS emergency order.
“Indoor gatherings of more than 10 and up to 500 people occurring at a non- residential venue are permitted” in Region 6 “at up to 25% of seating capacity,” according to the order, and “In venues without fixed seating, gatherings of up to 25 persons per 1,000 square feet in each occupied room are permitted” in Region 6.
(Crawford County is located inside Region 6 along with most of northern Michigan.)
The order has separate regulations for outdoor events.
“Outdoor gatherings of up to 100 persons occurring at a non-residential venue are permitted provided that each person at the gathering wears a face covering,” according to the MDHHS emergency order.
“Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 and up to 1,000 persons occurring at a non- residential venue with fixed seating are permitted” as long as attendance is limited to “30% of seating capacity” and participants wear face coverings. “In venues without fixed seating,” attendance has to be limited “to 30 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within any distinct area within the event space,” according to the order, and people have to wear masks.
The section says gatherings “are permitted” for “Voting or election-related activities at polling places; Training of law enforcement, correctional, medical, or first responder personnel, insofar as those activities cannot be conducted remotely; The purpose of engaging in organized sports held in accordance with this order; Students in a classroom setting or children in a daycare setting.”
The section on gatherings also requires physical distancing for events.
“Organizers and venues hosting gatherings permitted must ensure that persons not part of the same household maintain six feet of distance from one another, including by designing the gathering to encourage and maintain distancing,” according to the order.
The “Capacity Restrictions” section of the order says “recreational sports and exercise facilities, such as gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, exercise studios, bowling centers, roller rinks, ice rinks, and trampoline parks” can operate unless “they exceed 25% of the total occupancy limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal” or “if there is less than six feet of distance between each workout station.”
“Gatherings at professional sports and entertainment facilities, including arenas, cinemas, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, and stadiums and theaters, are prohibited unless the venue is designed to ensure that patrons not of the same household maintain six feet of distance,” according to the order.
The order also says that “gatherings in waiting rooms at outpatient health-care facilities, veterinary clinics, personal care services, and other businesses are prohibited unless the facility implements a system to ensure that persons not of the same household maintain six feet of distance.”
The “Protection Of Workers” portion of the order says “gatherings of employees in the workplace are prohibited if not strictly necessary to perform job duties, provided however that, where gatherings are necessary, employees must still maintain six feet of distance from one another where practicable; If employees not otherwise required to wear face coverings cannot maintain six feet of distance from others; If employees not otherwise required to wear face coverings occupy the same indoor shared space, such as conference rooms, restrooms, and hallways.”
The section also offers rules for workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have coronavirus symptoms.
“All businesses or operations that require their employees to gather with other persons for work must conduct a daily entry self-screening protocol for all employees or contractors entering the workplace, including, at a minimum, a questionnaire covering symptoms of COVID-19 and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19,” according to the order.
The “Face Covering Requirement At Gatherings” section says “a person responsible for a business, government office, school, or other operation, or an agent of such person, must not allow indoor gatherings of any kind unless they require individuals in such gatherings (including employees) to wear a face covering.”
The section also offers rules for face coverings in “all child-care organizations.” It says they “must not permit gatherings unless face coverings are worn by all staff and all children 2 years and older when on a school bus or other transportation provided by the child-care organization or camp; All staff and all children 4 years and older when in indoor hallways and common areas; Face coverings should be encouraged for children 2 years and older when in indoor hallways; and all staff and all children 5 years and older when in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor settings.”
The section says people “responsible for establishments open to the public” have to “post signs at entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering when inside the store; and post signs at entrances informing customers not to enter if they are or have recently been sick.”
The “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order” offers exceptions to the mask regulations for “individuals who: Except as otherwise provided in this order, are younger than 5 years old; Cannot medically tolerate a face covering; Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment; Are exercising outdoors and able to consistently maintain six feet of distance from others; Are swimming; Are receiving a service for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary; Are asked to temporarily remove a face covering for identification purposes; Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing and where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication; Are actively engaged in a public safety role; Are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election; Are officiating or engaging in a religious service; Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least six feet away from the speaker.”
The “Safe Start” order from the governor attempted to close bars in Michigan by stating that “food service establishments that hold on-premises retailer licenses to sell alcoholic beverages must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages.” The “Food Service Establishments” section in the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order” offers rules that mostly deal with physical distancing, capacity, and sanitization, and it doesn’t say that bars must remain closed.
“Food service establishments must prohibit gatherings in all the following circumstances: In indoor common areas in which people can congregate, dance, or otherwise mingle; If there is less than six feet of distance between each party; If they exceed 50% of normal seating capacity; Anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption onsite, unless parties are seated and separated from one another by at least six feet, and do not intermingle; If they involve any persons not seated at a table or at the bar top (customers must wait outside the food service establishment if table or bar top seating is unavailable); Until the food service establishment has been deep cleaned consistent with Food and Drug Administration and CDC guidance, in the event that an employee of the food service establishment is confirmed positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms of COVID-19 while at work.”
The “Organized Sports” section in the MDHHS emergency order is similar to the “Organized Sports” section in the “Safe Start” order. The order says athletes that can’t maintain six feet of physical distancing during competition must wear masks, concessions are not allowed to be sold at indoor venues, and the spectator numbers must be limited to two guests per athlete or adhere to the rules outlined by the MDHHS order’s “Attendance Limitations At Gatherings” section.
On October 6, the Michigan High School Athletic Association, responding to the signing of the “Gathering Prohibition and Mask Order,” said it is recommending schools continue with the regulations currently in place for sports – including wearing of masks for athletes in sports that can’t maintain six feet of physical distancing during games – and the only change will be an immediate adjustment of spectator limits as outlined in the “Attendance Limitations At Gatherings” section of the order.
“Given the recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court on October 2, along with the Emergency Order issued by MDHHS on October 5, the MHSAA is providing this updated guidance. Be advised that the only change from past guidance is the effective date (immediate) for crowds and gathering sizes. In general, the MHSAA is advising member schools to maintain the status quo for the time being, because of all of the uncertainty surrounding the enforceability of the (executive orders), MDHHS orders, and county health department restrictions,” according to the MHSAA.
“If your gymnasium seats 2,500 or more, you would be able to sell 500 spectator tickets. If your gymnasium seats less than 2,500, take 20% (or 25% in Region 6) of your maximum capacity to determine the number of allowed spectators. If an outdoor event is in a fixed outdoor seating venue (football or soccer stadium), 30% of seating capacity is allowed for up to 1,000 spectators,” according to the MHSAA.
(The October 9 order did not change the capacity limits announced in the October 5 order.)
Grayling High School’s athletic department, as of Thursday, October 8, was still working with local officials to determine the gym’s capacity due to an increase in space at the facility with the addition of the walkway during the Viking Activity Center construction.
The “Contact Tracing” section of the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order” – rules that were not included in the “Gathering Prohibition and Mask Order” – says “all businesses or operations that provide barbering, cosmetology services, body art services (including tattooing and body piercing), tanning services, massage services, or similar personal care services” and “sports and entertainment facilities (except outdoor, unticketed sporting events), including arenas, cinemas, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, stadiums and theaters, as well as places of public amusement, such as amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling centers, skating rinks, and trampoline parks” and “gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, exercise facilities, exercise studios, bowling centers, roller rinks, ice rinks, and like facilities” have to gather contact information from patrons, and it says they must “(deny) entry for a gathering to any visitor who does not provide, at a minimum, their name and phone number.”
The final section of the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order” – “Implementation” – says that “local health departments are authorized to carry out and enforce the terms of this order.”
“This order is effective immediately, and remains in effect through October 30, 2020,” according to the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order.”
The MDHHS says state law gives the department the authority to implement the order due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Michigan law imposes on MDHHS a duty to continually and diligently endeavor to ‘prevent disease, prolong life, and promote public health,’ and gives the Department ‘general supervision of the interests of health and life of people of this state.’ In recognition of the severe, widespread harm caused by epidemics, the Legislature has granted MDHHS specific authority, dating back a century, to address threats to the public health like that posed by COVID-19. (Michigan law) provides that ‘if the director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.’ Enforcing Michigan’s health laws, including preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting public health, requires limitations on gatherings and the establishment of procedures to control the spread of COVID-19. This includes limiting the number, location, size, and type of gatherings, and instituting mitigating measures like face coverings, to prevent ill or infected persons from infecting others,” according to the “Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order.”