New MDHHS Order Tightens Restrictions on Gatherings and More

By Rebekah Page-Gourley posted 13 days ago


On Sunday, November 15, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order replacing the previous one issued on October 29, 2020. The new order goes into effect on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, and remains in effect for three weeks until December 8, 2020. As before, the authority for the order is MCL 333.2253 of the Public Health Code. The new order, described as a “pause to save lives,” includes a number of tightened restrictions on social gatherings, businesses, and schools. MDHHS also issued a Pause to Save Lives infographic,  Social Gathering Guidance, and  Safe Social "Pods" guidance. Highlights of the new order include the following:

  • Definitions of a number of terms, including childcare organization, gathering, household, and symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Prohibition of indoor gatherings at nonresidential venues. Gatherings are permitted at residential venues only if no more than 10 people from no more than two households are gathered. Such gatherings should be held consistent with MDHHS’s Social Gathering Guidance, which includes limiting time indoors and wearing a mask when not eating or drinking.
  • Prohibition of outdoor gatherings at residential venues unless there are 25 or fewer people from no more than three households. At nonresidential venues, outdoor gatherings are permitted if there are 25 or fewer people at venues without fixed seating (limited to 20 people per 1,000 square feet) and 25 or fewer people at venues with fixed seating (limited to 20 percent of seating capacity of the venue).
  • Enumerated exceptions to the limitations on gatherings:
    • incidental gatherings at airports, malls, and the like
    • gatherings between an employee and a customer for the purpose of receiving service
    • workplace gatherings consistent with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) Emergency Rules issued October 14, 2020 (Note that under the MIOSHA emergency rules, employers must “create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.)
    • voting or official election-related activity
    • certain trainings that cannot be conducted remotely
    • pre-K through 8th grade education and support services
    • childcare organizations and camps
    • public transportation
    • gatherings for medical treatment, including mental health and substance abuse treatment
    • gatherings of up to 25 people for a funeral
    • gatherings at residential care facilities, subject to the October 21, 2020, epidemic order, regarding requirements for residential facilities or any replacement to it
  • Requirements that organizers and venues design gatherings to encourage and maintain physical distancing.
  • Prohibition of gatherings at entertainment venues, like banquet halls and cinemas, as well as recreational facilities like bowling alleys, casinos, and strip clubs.
  • Prohibition of indoor drinking or dining at food service establishments, excepting custodial settings, medical care facilities, school cafeterias, shelters, and soup kitchens. Outdoor dining is permitted if diners are seated no more than six people to a table and tables are spaced at least six feet apart.
  • Retail stores, libraries, and museums may operate at 30 percent of total occupancy limits but may permit one customer at a time to enter if strict adherence to this rule would result in closure. Retail stores must establish lines to enforce distancing.
  • Exercise facilities may operate at 25 percent of total occupancy limits, and there must be twelve feet of distance between each occupied work station. Group fitness classes are prohibited. Pools are allowed to open for individual exercise.
  • Gatherings in outpatient waiting rooms are permitted with distancing regulations. To the extent possible, this should include asking patrons to wait in their cars until called.
  • Personal care service providers may operate to the extent that services do not involve the removal of face masks, and all services must be provided by appointment.
  • Gatherings at schools for grades 9–12 and at colleges and universities are prohibited for purposes of in-person instruction, except for in-person instruction of English language learners or special education services.
  • Gatherings for the purpose of sports and extracurricular activities are prohibited unless all participants, teams, and venues comply with the enhanced testing regimen specified in the MDHHS guidance. Professional sports (and a limited number of NCAA sports) are allowed to proceed.
  • Face masks are required at all gatherings, including private residential gatherings of more than one household. The same list of exceptions to the face mask requirements apply as in the previous order, except there is no exception for residential gatherings and no exception for nonmedical services.
  • Contact tracing requirements for gatherings at personal service providers, exercise facilities, in-home services, and more. The new order states that the data collected must not be sold or used for sales or marketing without express permission, must be protected as confidential, “[m]ust not be provided to law enforcement or immigration officials except upon receipt of a lawful subpoena from a court or other lawful court order,” and must be retained for 28 days, after which time it must be destroyed.
  • As with prior orders, nothing prohibits religious worship.
  • As with prior orders, violations of the order are punishable by a civil violation of up to $1,000 per violation or per day of continued violation.