Michigan health department issues order continuing restrictions on nursing home visits

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued emergency orders to maintain existing COVID-19 precautions in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities Tuesday in the wake of a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision invalidating many of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus executive orders.

One of the orders issued by MDHHS Director Robert Gordon Tuesday continues visitation restrictions for residential care facilities like nursing homes, adult foster care and assisted living facilities, although visitation is permitted for assistance with daily activities, compassionate care and medical treatment.

Window visits with a barrier between the resident and visitor and socially distanced outdoor visits in facilities with no new COVID-19 cases in the previous 14 days are permitted under the order.

“Ensuring the health and safety of vulnerable Michiganders and those under our care is of the utmost importance,” Gordon said in a statement. “This order reestablishes protections that have helped Michigan sharply reduce the loss of life in nursing homes. With the level of COVID in Michigan rising again, these protections are more critical than ever.”

The residential care order also stipulates notice requirements for employees, residents, legal guardians and health proxies for residents when an employee or resident tests positive, and also requires the facility to post public notices and notify the local health department when a case occurs.

A separate order regarding child care and juvenile justice facilities allows visitation in those facilities so long as precautions such as restricting visitation to designated areas, scheduling visits in advance, screening visitors for COVID-19 symptoms and requiring social distancing and mask use are followed.

The orders went into effect immediately and run through Oct. 30. They come after the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders were thrown into legal limbo when the Supreme Court ruled Friday the laws underpinning her executive orders were unconstitutional.

Gordon derives his authority to issue the order from the public health code, which states: “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 ensure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.”

That law’s constitutionality wasn’t part of the case the Michigan Supreme Court weighed in on last week.

On Monday, the department issued an emergency order mirroring many of Whitmer’s previous orders, including a statewide mask requirement and limits on the size of gatherings.


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