The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Monday issued an emergency public health order requiring masks and limiting gatherings after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s authority to issue orders was struck down by the Supreme Court on Friday.
The governor’s executive orders were thrown into legal limbo last week when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the laws underpinning her executive orders were unconstitutional. The governor is seeking clarification from the court on whether the order takes effect immediately, arguing it instead starts Oct. 30 under a court rule.
Related: Are Michiganders still living under coronavirus orders? Gov. Whitmer asks Supreme Court to clarify
The requirements put in place by MDHHS closely track with the executive orders the governor had put in place, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said Monday.
“At no point today have we said we as the health department aim to do more than the governor already did… we aim to preserve the status quo pending further review,” Gordon said in a call with reporters.
Gordon derives his authority to issue the order from a part of the public health code that 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 insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.”
That law is not one of those the Supreme Court recently ruled on.
The order requires masks at social gatherings, defined as a shared space with two or more people where people are from multiple households. Businesses and government offices are required to enforce the requirements for gatherings on their premises.
People participating in organized sports must wear masks unless they are swimming or maintaining six feet of distance.
Masks will be required in schools in every MI Safe Start region except the Traverse City region.
At indoor gatherings of up to 10 people at a residence, masks are encouraged but not required. At indoor gatherings of up to 10 people at a non-residential venue, people must wear face coverings.
Gathering limits mirror those the governor had previously announced:
– Up to 500 people at an indoor non-residential venue, limited to 20% of the venue’s total capacity in most of the state and 25% of the venue’s total capacity in the Traverse City region, or 20 people per 1,000 square feet in most of the state and 25 people per 1,000 square feet in the Traverse City region.
– Up to 1,000 people at indoor non-residential venues, limited to 30% of normal capacity or 30 people per 1,000 square feet.
Those who violate the order are subject to a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $200, or both. Violaters are also subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.
Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the state is at 81.6 cases per million people per day — the highest overall case rate since May 1. The positivity rate is at 3.6 percent, she said, an increase over last week. The state death rate has increased over the past two weeks, she said, to one death per million people, the highest rate since June.
“Overall, I would say that COVID-19 is still very present across the state, and particularly in the U.P. cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising,” Khaldun said.
Read the full order here.
The order comes as the legislature, which has been critical of the governor’s unilateral control, is preparing to work with the governor.
“I do think, given the fact that the Supreme Court just ruled that the governor has to partner with the legislature, I don’t think any one branch should be going it alone at this point,” said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, on a call with reporters on Monday.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS:
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data/.
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