Michigan’s COVID-19 executive orders are officially toast.
But there are new state rules in their place.
After the executive orders were invalidated Oct. 2 by the state Supreme Court, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revived some of the orders as emergency epidemic orders.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders were immediately struck down by their ruling – instead three or four weeks later like Whitmer said – the MDHHS orders are the new law of the land.
Most of the orders are in effect until Oct. 30 – although state law doesn’t indicate a timeframe limit to the MDHHS director’s powers.
“As we work with the governor, we will assess whether to extend or change the orders,” MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said in an email. “We will base the need for these orders on the assessment of the epidemic itself: the nature of the virus’ spread and progress made in our response.”
Here’s a look at the MDHHS COVID-19 orders, most of which are punishable by a misdemeanor $200 fine/six months of jail or a $1,000 civil fine. Many of the rules are identical to Whitmer’s executive orders, but some are less stringent.
- Indoor gatherings at residences are limited to 10 people
- Indoor gatherings between 10 and 500 at non-residences are limited to 20% of the seating capacity (25% in the Traverse City/Alpena region) if it has fixed seating.
- Such indoor gatherings at places without fixed seating are limited to 20 people per 1,000 square feet (25 in the Traverse City/Alpena region) and masks are required
- Outdoor gatherings at residences are limited to 100 people
- Outdoor gatherings between 100 and 1,000 people are allowed at non-residences, but limited to 30% capacity if it has fixed seating or 30 people per thousand square feet if it’s not fixed seating – and masks are required
- Voting, law enforcement/first responder training, organized sports, schools and day cares are among activities exempt to the gathering limits
- Restaurants are limited to 50% capacity and close indoor common areas where people can dance, congregate and otherwise mingle
- Stores, libraries and museums are limited to 50% capacity (except in the Traverse City/Alpena region)
- Gyms, fitness centers, bowling centers, roller rinks, ice rinks and similar businesses are limited to 25% capacity and must have 6 feet between each station
- Arenas, theaters, waiting rooms at health-care facilities and similar activities are only allowed if the facility makes sure groups maintain 6 feet of distance
- Outdoor pools are limited to 50% capacity
- Indoor pools are limited to 25% capacity
- Non-tribal casinos limited to 15% capacity (tribal casinos aren’t required to follow state orders)
- Masks are still required in public spaces like retail, other businesses, offices and schools
- One exemption – mask wearing is only recommended and not required for some people at schools in the Traverse City/Alpena region
- It cannot be assumed people not wearing masks are doing so because they fall under one of the exemptions (like not being able to medically tolerate a mask)
- Masks aren’t required in a few circumstances, like while eating and drinking while seated at a restaurant, while swimming and while voting
- In organized sports, masks are required if 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained in that sport and the audience is limited to two guests per participant
- Offices (except in the Traverse City/Alpena region) are closed if the work doesn’t have to be done in person – in which case, 6 feet of distancing must be maintained
- Potentially COVID-positive people must stay home from in-person work
- Businesses must screen employees for COVID-19
- Business must post signage about the mask requirement and signage about not coming in if sick
- If a restaurant employee is confirmed positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms at work, the restaurant must close and can’t reopen until it’s deep cleaned to Centers for Disease Control standards
- Businesses like barbershops, tattoo/piercing places, other personal care services, arenas, theaters, other places of public amusement, gyms, bowling centers, ice rinks, in-home services and other similar businesses must keep records of people for contract tracing purposes
School and care-facility-related orders
- With any COVID-19 school cases, the local health department must inform the affected school within 24 hours
- Within 24 hours of that, the school must notify the school community of employees, parents, etc. of the positive case
- Congregate care facilities and juvenile justice facilities have guest requirements, like only allowing scheduled visits, screening visitors, requiring masks in shared spaces, requiring social distancing, etc.
- Nursing homes and other residential care facilities have a list of restrictions, like limiting communal dining, informing staff and residents of positive cases, limiting indoor and outdoor visitation depending on the circumstances, etc.
Many of the executive orders are unaddressed by the MDHHS orders. Some, like the unemployment orders, cannot be reissued by the MDHHS. The Legislature is working on a bill that would restore some of the pandemic benefits Whitmer put in place for unemployed workers.
The bill is tie-barred to other legislation, a move Whitmer and the Democrats have chided. The tie-bar means the unemployment bill wouldn’t go into law unless other bills giving employers immunity from COVID-19 liability are also passed.
The bills passed the Senate last week and are expected to be considered in the House on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
More MDHHS orders could be coming in the coming days, Sutfin said.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling raises several legal questions that we are still reviewing,” Sutfin said. “While we are moving quickly, it will take time to understand the full implications of the court’s ruling and the extent to which additional orders may be needed.”