Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon today issued an Emergency Order under the authority granted the department by MCL 333.2253 restricting gathering sizes and requiring face coverings in public spaces. The order also imposes mask wearing and gathering size restrictions with regard to organized sports. Because today’s order largely reinstates major aspects of prior emergency orders, local district Preparedness Plans should already align with the requirements of the new order, though with one major exception: the limitations effectively move the Upper Peninsula into Phase 4 with regard to mask wearing and gathering sizes. The order is effective immediately and valid through October 30, 2020.

Here are the details.

Requirements to Wear Masks

  • The order requires individuals to wear masks when in gatherings, defined as any occurrence where persons from multiple households are present in a shared space in a group of two or more, and requires businesses and government offices to enforce those requirements for gatherings on their premises.
  • The order requires the wearing of masks at schools for all grades, except for in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6, which has the effect of accelerating the change in rules for the Upper Peninsula that was already slated to go into effect this coming Friday.
  • The same exceptions to mask wearing remain in place (children under 5, persons who cannot medically tolerate a mask, etc.). The full list is outlined in the order linked above.

Limitations on the Size of Gatherings/Events

  • The order reinstates limitations on gathering sizes that mirror the requirements that Governor Whitmer had previously put in place.
  • Indoor gatherings of more than 10 and up to 500 people occurring at a non-residential venue are permitted within the following limits:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% of normal capacity. However, gatherings up to 25% of normal capacity are permitted in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet in each occupied room. However, gatherings of up to 25 persons per 1,000 square feet are permitted in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
  • Non-residential outdoor gatherings of between 100 and 1,000 persons at venues with fixed seating are permitted at up to 30% of normal capacity and at 30 persons per 1,000 square feet at venues without fixed seating.
  • There are two express exceptions to these gathering size limits that will be of particular interest to Principals:
    • Rather than enforcing these gathering size limits, districts may choose to instead enforce the two-guests-per-athlete rule that was an option under the earlier executive orders.
    • Students in a classroom setting or children in a daycare setting are expressly excluded from the gathering size limits.

Requirements for Organized Sports

  • The order continues the requirement that "athletes wear a face covering (except when swimming) or consistently maintain six feet of social distance (except for occasional and fleeting moments) when training for, practicing for or competing in an organized sport." Just like the previous Executive Order, this directive also expressly requires masks for things like football and soccer.
  • The order also maintains the other components of the earlier executive order including:
    • A prohibition on concessions at indoor events,
    • A recommendation, but not a requirement, that organizers follow MDHHS's earlier guidance with regard to contact sports, and
    • The option to enforce the gathering limits outlined above or the two-guests-per-athlete limit.

Requirement to Enforce Social Distancing

  • The order also requires event organizers to "ensure that persons not part of the same household maintain six feet of distance from one another, including by designing the gathering to encourage and maintain social distancing."

As mentioned earlier, the authority for today's action is MCL 333.2253, which states: "If the director [of MDHHS] 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."

As provided in the order, violations are punishable by a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200, or both, and are also punishable by a civil fine of fine of up to $1,000.