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MDHHS issues emergency order continuing COVID-19 safety measures

October 5, 2020
<p>Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.</p>

Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, Director Robert Gordon issued an emergency order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in all public spaces and placing limitations on bars and restaurants, according to a release Monday. 

This comes following the Michigan Supreme Court ruling Friday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lacked the authority to declare a state of emergency after April 30. The decision invalidates all executive orders related to COVID-19. 

Under MCL 333.2253, if the MDHHS director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, they may prohibit the gathering of any people and establish procedures to be followed through an emergency order.

The order will remain in effect until Oct. 30. Local health departments may be authorized to carry out and enforce the terms of this order.

On Sunday, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail issued four countywide emergency orders keeping several COVID-19 precautions in place including the use of face coverings, limitations on indoor and outdoor gatherings sizes, capacity limits for restaurants and mandatory employee screenings. 

“Michigan was hit hard by COVID-19 early in the pandemic,” Gordon said in the release. “Strict preventive measures and the cooperation of Michiganders drove those numbers down dramatically, greatly reducing the loss of life. As we head into flu season, this order is necessary to protect vulnerable individuals, ensure the health care system can provide care for all health issues, keep schools open, and maintain economic recovery.” 

The new Emergency Order enforces indoor gatherings limitations of up to 10 people and outdoor gatherings of no more than 100. Gatherings for voting or election related activities, training of law enforcement, correctional, medical or first responder personnel, organized sports and classroom or daycare settings may be permitted. 

According to the release, in venues with fixed seating, attendance must be limited to 20% capacity. If a venue has no fixed seating, up to 20 people will be allotted per 1,000 square feet in each occupied room. Bars will be required to close any indoor common areas where people can congregate, dance or mingle and indoor gatherings are not permitted in any area where alcohol is sold except for table services with a separation of at least six feet.

Sports may only take place when athletes maintain a distance of six-feet or otherwise wear a face covering at all time, the release states. 

"When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we are all in this together. We need Michiganders everywhere to do their part by wearing masks and practicing safe physical distancing so we can keep our schools and small businesses open and protect the brave men and women serving on the front lines of this crisis,” Whitmer said in the release. “The epidemic order that Director Gordon issued today is an important step to protect Michiganders across the state from the spread of COVID-19. Let’s all mask up and stay safe.” 

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