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New MDHHS Order Reopens Indoor Group Exercise and Noncontact Sports

By Rebekah Page-Gourley posted 11 days ago


On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order replacing the previous one, which went into effect on December 18, 2020. Effective from January 16, 2021, through January 31, 2021, the new order includes most of the same provisions as the previous order but allows the reopening of some additional activities in which individuals can remain masked and socially distanced, including indoor group exercise and noncontact sports. Along with the new order, the MDHHS issued the following supplemental materials: Epidemic Order Infographic, Epidemic Order Capacity Limits Fact Sheet, and Epidemic Order FAQs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued quarantine guidance in December, which is also discussed briefly below.

January 13 MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order Updates

Highlights of the January 13 order include the following (items in bold indicate provisions not in the previous order):

  • Definitions of a number of terms, including child-care organization, gathering, household, and symptoms of COVID-19. The list includes a definition for indoors (“‘Indoors’ means within a space that is fully or partially enclosed on the top, and fully or partially enclosed on two or more contiguous sides. Additionally, in a space that is fully or partially enclosed on the top, and fully or partially enclosed on two non-contiguous sides, any part of that space that is more than 8 feet from an open side is indoors.”). It also includes definitions for lower risk entertainment facility (which includes places like cinemas, stadiums, and concert halls), higher risk recreational facilities (like water parks and strip clubs), and lower risk recreational facilities (like amusement parks, bowling centers, and casinos). The order defines moderate risk recreational facilities: “recreational facilities where there is not physical contact among participants, there is minimal interaction between households participating in activities, masks can be worn, and the activities involve a significant degree of exhalation or physical exertion indoors.”
  • 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, including after-school programs
    • 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
    • CPR courses and proctored nationally administered admissions certification examinations, under certain conditions
    • Gatherings at lower and moderate risk entertainment facilities and lower risk recreational facilities that comply with the order’s restrictions
    • Gatherings for the purposes of indoor group fitness, exercise, or noncontact sports that comply with the particular gathering and organized sports restrictions in the order
    • Gatherings for public health or other emergency purposes
  • Requirements that organizers and facilities design gatherings to encourage and maintain physical distancing.
  • Specific gathering requirements for certain permitted gatherings at lower risk entertainment facilities and lower and moderate risk recreational facilities, including prohibitions on mingling between households and enforcement of distancing guidelines. The order requires 6 feet of distance between seats for stationary activities and maintenance of 6 feet of distance between persons participating in nonstationary activities at all times. No physical contact between participants is permitted.
  • 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. Any spaces for indoor dining, including food courts, must be closed.
  • Exercise facilities may operate at 25 percent of total occupancy limits, there must be 6 feet of distance between each occupied work station, and the physical layout of the space must allow exercisers to move between stations while maintaining distancing. Group fitness classes are permitted indoors and outdoors, provided that participants distance and wear a face mask at all times.
  • 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.
  • Gatherings at an indoor or outdoor pool not otherwise prohibited by the order may not exceed 25 percent of capacity limits.
  • Gatherings at ice and roller rinks are permitted, except for organized contact sports, provided that occupancy is limited to 4 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within the exercise space. Gatherings for noncontact sports and open skating are permitted.
  • 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 public, nonpublic, and boarding schools for in-person instruction through grade 12 are permitted subject to local health department and school district decisions. Gatherings for extracurricular activities are permitted unless the activities involve physical contact among participants or where masks cannot be worn.
  • Gatherings at colleges and universities, trade schools, and career schools are permitted for in-person classes and other institution-sponsored events, subject to the limitations in this order.
  • Gatherings for the purpose of contact organized sports and extracurricular activities are prohibited unless all participants, teams, and venues comply with the enhanced testing regimen specified in the Testing and Additional Mitigation Measures for Athletic Practice and Play During Statewide Athletics “Pause” section of MDHHS’s Interim Guidance for Athletics or the school is participating in an MDHHS testing pilot program.
  • Gatherings for the purpose of noncontact sports are permitted provided that they do not exceed 25 percent of total occupancy limits and participants maintain 6 feet of distance at all times.
  • Face masks are required at all gatherings, including private residential gatherings of more than one household. The order lists numerous exceptions to the face mask requirements. Participants in gatherings for exercise, group fitness, or organized sports must comply with the mask requirements in the Interim Guidance for Athletics.
  • 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.

CDC Guidance Updates Regarding Quarantine Requirements

The CDC revised its close-contact quarantine guidance based on scientific findings released December 2, 2020. Based on an evaluation of these findings, MDHHS updated its guidance to allow modifications to the standard 14-day quarantine period for Michigan residents under certain circumstances. Specifically, the period can be reduced to 10 days if “[t]he individual does not develop any symptoms or clinical evidence of COVID-19 infection during daily symptom monitoring for the 10 days after the last exposure” and “[d]aily symptom monitoring continues through day 14 after the last exposure.”