Sunday, September 20, 2020

Gov. Whitmer waives college space inspections, closes bars, limits gatherings amid COVID-19 concerns

July 30, 2020
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on January 29, 2020.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on January 29, 2020. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released several new regulations for Michiganders amid the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday. Her orders included waiving large space inspections for universities, closing bars statewide, and limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people.

Bars to close statewide, indoor gatherings limited

Executive Orders 2020-160 and 2020-161 will go into effect July 31, marking the closure of indoor bar service and capping indoor gatherings at 10 people.

Whitmer's order explains these new regulations are connected to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases connected to social gatherings.

“As we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Michiganders cannot afford to drop our guard," Whitmer said in a statement. "We must take every step possible to save lives, protect the brave men and women on the front lines, and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system while we continue to combat COVID-19."

Additionally, the order explained the limiting of indoor and outdoor gatherings was based on several prior incidents.

"COVID-19’s resurgence is closely associated with super-spreading events at large social gatherings, often attended by young people," the statement said. "An outbreak at a Lansing bar has resulted in 187 infections; more than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline; and a sandbar party at Torch Lake over the July 4 weekend led to at least 43 confirmed cases."

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people or less, according to the statement.

Whitmer forgoes inspections for swift instructional space conversions

By signing Executive Order 2020-159, Whitmer waived inspections for universities seeking to convert large non-classroom spaces into instruction areas, according to a recent executive order.

The order explains colleges and universities want to convert these large, existing spaces to enable students to remain physically distant during in-person instruction.

Whitmer's order, issued on Wednesday, allows these spaces to forgo inspection and approval by the Bureau of Fire Services. The order explains the omission of inspection allows for quick conversions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Michigan State, faculty were asked to hold 75% of classes at least partially online this fall. Additionally, students with all online classes may remain home for the upcoming semester.

Students, faculty and staff will also be required to wear face masks indoors and outdoors while on MSU's campus.

Executive order 2020-159 takes effect immediately and will remain until the end of the current state of emergency declaration, or at the end of any subsequent state of emergency declarations, according to the order.

MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

This is a developing story. Stay with The State News for updates.

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