On Tuesday March 2, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (“MDHHS”) Director Elizabeth Hertel announced a revised Gatherings and Facemask Order (the “Revised Order”) which is scheduled to take effect on Friday, March 5.
The Revised Order, which remains in force through April 19, relaxes a number of the state health department’s COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols. Most notably, the Revised Order increases the gathering and capacity limits set by the previous Gatherings and Face Mask Order issued on February 4. Notable changes under the Revised Order include:
While the Revised Order does not explicitly contain any revised information on remote work protocols, MDHHS Director Hertel specified during the joint press conference that remote work protocols should continue in line with all applicable gathering restrictions set forth in the Revised Order. Emergency rules from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“MIOSHA”) remain in effect and require office employees to work from home whenever their work can be done remotely.
These changes come a day after more than a dozen of the state’s largest Chambers of Commerce sent a letter to Governor Whitmer stressing the need for relaxed restrictions and clarity in decision making moving forward. Last week several of these same Chamber groups sent another letter advocating for workers to return to office settings. Meanwhile, the Legislature continues to push back on the Whitmer administration’s COVID-19 restrictions, which has led to disagreement over how and if to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated to the State as well as proposed legislation aimed at limiting MDHHS’ ability to issue orders without legislative approval after 28 days.
The Governor’s office has been careful with its reactions to lobbying efforts and proposed legislation, with spokesperson Bobby Leddy recently stating that the administration, “Will continue to review the data and update its guidance as we fight this virus together." With a slight uptick in reported cases this past week, as well as news that Michigan has the second-highest number of cases nationally of the B.1.1.7 variant, responses like Leddy’s suggest that restrictions will be tightened again if health officials determine that another outbreak is likely.
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