A number of gathering restrictions have been loosened under a new epidemic order released today by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Of particular importance for schools is that, starting Friday, March 5, much larger groups will be allowed. This has immediate implications for the number of spectators allowed at school athletic events, medium-term implications for spring testing, and long-term implications as Principals continue the work of planning for end-of-year activities like commencement. The changes will also allow school boards to resume in-person meetings, though remote meetings are still permitted for any reason through April 1 (and for certain, limited reasons even after that).

Here are the major highlights Principals will want to know from today's order:

  • Goes into effect Friday, March 5 and remains in effect until April 19, 2021 unless rescinded or superseded by another order.
  • For "proctored, nationally-administered admissions and certification examinations that are not available remotely," students must be spaced at least 6 feet apart. This is down from the previous requirement that students be spaced 12 feet apart, but still double the College Board required spacing of 3 feet. It is unclear how this applies to M-STEP since the language is specific to nationally administered tests and M-STEP is Michigan specific, but a plain reading suggests that there will be no spacing requirements for M-STEP testing.
  • Group size restrictions for indoor non-residential gatherings have been eased to allow up to 25 people from any number of households to gather. This should allow in-person board meetings, but will also impact the allowable size and makeup of groups allowed to sit together at events (though local districts can always set limits more restrictive than the epidemic orders).
  • Group size restrictions for outdoor non-residential gatherings is now set at 300 people, which should greatly increase the opportunities for hosting outdoor gatherings.
  • Masking and social distancing requirements remain in place.
  • The prohibition on mingling between groups remains in place, so while larger groups may simplify some gathering types, things like prom or senior party might still be problematic.
  • For "indoor entertainment and recreation facilities" (e.g. theaters, bowling alleys, etc.) will now have a maximum capacity of 300 people or up to 50% of their approved capacity, whichever is less, provided groups stay at least six feet apart at all times.
  • Indoor stadiums and arenas will have even greater capacity, which will increase the crowd limits for many indoor athletics. The limits for those venues are as follows:
    • 375 people maximum for facilities that have a seating capacity of less or equal to 10,000 people, or
    • 750 people maximum for facilities that have a seating capacity of greater than 10,000 people.
  • Outdoor recreation facilities, stadiums, arenas, etc. will now have a maximum capacity of up to 1000 people, whichever is less.
  • Outdoor recreation facilities without fixed seating (think pavilions, etc.) will have a maximum capacity of 300 people.
  • Capacity limits in other venues have increased as well:
    • Exercise facilities may now have up to 30% of capacity
    • Pools may now have up to 40% of their bather capacity.
    • Ice and roller rinks have increased to allow up to 10 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
    • Restaurant capacity is increased to 50%, but the limit of 6 people at a table remains in place and tables must still be spaced 6 feet apart.

Want more information on end-of-year gatherings? Join MASSP this Thursday for a Leader2Leader Webinar discussion End of Year Activities. MASSP has assembled a panel of Middle and High School Administrators to share the creative ways they were able to honor and recognize student and staff accomplishments. Everything from staff retirements to commencement, eighth grade graduation, athletic recognition and transition opportunities will be included. 

Read the Epidemic Order

Social Gathering Guidance

Capacity Limits Fact Sheet

Outdoor Seating Enclosures

Register for the Leader2Leader Webinar