LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has updated its epidemic order to allow indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked including in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues such as casinos, bowling centers and movie theaters (which will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place).

The new order took effect Dec. 21 and will last until Jan. 15. 

During a Dec. 18 press conference, Gov.Gretchen Whitmer said she will seriously consider lifting some provisions sooner “if we substantially sustain our progress.”

“The curve is flattening. But we can’t let our guard down for a second because our fortunes can change fast,” Whitmer said.

On Dec. 18, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon announced that the remaining fall tournaments for football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving can resume due to being included in the new testing program.

The remaining fall sports were allowed to resume in-person practices on Dec. 21. Football regional finals (including Lakeshore at DeWitt) are set to take place Jan. 2, with the state semifinals and finals the following two weekends. The girls swimming and diving finals will be held Jan. 15-16.

Audrey Dixon of the Bridgman cooperative girls swim team (and a sophomore at Niles High School) qualified for the state finals with a time of 1:57.45 in the 200 freestyle and a 53.93 in the 100 freestyle.

Dixon was one of nine members of the Bridgman co-op squad named to the SMAC All Conference team. So honored were: (First Team) Leah Horvath; Madilyn Keigley; Eden Grey; and Dixon; (Second Team) Jalynn Krieger; Ainsley Martin; Lucia Gianni; Lorraine Holtgren; and Natalian Beran.

The current state order preventing winter sports is set to expire on Jan. 15, but Gov. Whitmer said the order could be lifted sooner if warranted.

Details of the Dec. 21-Jan. 15 state order include:

1. General capacity limitations at gatherings.

a. Indoor gatherings:

1. Are prohibited at residential venues, except where no more than 10 persons from no more than 2 households are gathered. Such gatherings should be held consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Health and Human Services for such gatherings;

2. Are prohibited at non-residential venues.

b. Outdoor gatherings are permitted only as follows:

1. At residential venues, 25 or fewer persons are gathered, comprised of no more than 3 households;

2. At non-residential venues:

A. 25 or fewer persons are gathered at a venue without fixed seating, and attendance is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within any distinct area within the event space;

B. 25 or fewer persons are gathered at a venue with fixed seating, and attendance is limited to 20% of seating capacity of the venue.

c. The limitations to gatherings in sections 2(a) and 2(b) do not apply to:

1. Incidental, temporary gatherings of persons in a shared space, such as frequently occur in an airport, bus station, exercise facility, food service establishment, shopping mall, or public pool, except as prohibited in section 3;

2. Gatherings between an employee and a customer for the purpose of receiving services;

3. Workplace gatherings that occur consistent with the Emergency Rules issued by MIOSHA on October 14, 2020;

4. Voting or official election-related activities;

5. Training of law enforcement, correctional, medical, or first responder personnel, insofar as those activities cannot be conducted remotely;

6. Education and support services at public, nonpublic, and boarding schools serving students in prekindergarten through grade 8;

7. Children in a child-care organization, after school program, or camp setting;

8. Persons traveling on a school bus or other public transit;

9. Gatherings for the purpose of medical treatment, including mental health and substance use disorder support services;

10. Gatherings of up to 25 persons for the purpose of a funeral;

11. Residential care facilities, which are subject to the October 21 epidemic order entitled “Requirements for Residential Facilities,” or any replacement of that order;

12. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation courses and swimming instruction courses;

13. Proctored, nationally-administered admissions and certification examinations that are not available remotely, provided that examinees are spaced no less than 12 feet apart;

14. Gatherings at lower risk entertainment and lower risk recreational facilities that comply with the restrictions set forth in section 3(a) of this order;

15. Gatherings for public health or other emergency purposes. 

d. As a condition of hosting a gathering under this order, organizers and facilities must design the gathering to encourage and maintain physical distancing, and must ensure that persons not part of the same household maintain 6 feet of distance from one another to the extent possible.

2. Gathering restrictions for entertainment and food service facilities.

a. Gatherings are permitted at lower risk entertainment facilities and lower risk recreational facilities, provided that:

1. Organizers do not permit persons to mingle with others from outside of their household;

2. Household groups consist of no more than 6 persons;

3. Households are spaced or seated at least 6 feet apart;

4. No food or beverages are sold or consumed on the premises;

5. Venues comply with the following capacity limits:

A. For venues with fixed seating, occupancy must not exceed 20% of the limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal;

B. For venues with non-fixed seating, occupancy is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within any distinct space within the venue;

C. For all venues, no more than 100 persons may be gathered within any distinct space within the venue, except at stadiums and arenas hosting sporting events as provided in section 6, in which case up to 250 persons may be gathered.

b. Gatherings are permitted at food service establishments under the following conditions:

1. Persons are not gathered indoors except in custodial settings, medical facilities, school and university cafeterias, shelters, and soup kitchens. If attendees are seated at tables, persons must be 6 feet apart, or members of a household may share a table and tables must be spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart;

2. Persons participating in outdoor dining are seated no more than 6 to a table and tables are spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart;

c. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of these facilities for public health or other emergency purposes.

3. Gathering restrictions for other facilities. In addition to the gathering limitations set forth elsewhere in this order, the following limitations apply to gatherings in the following facilities:

a. A gathering at a retail store, library, or museum must not exceed 30% of total occupancy limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal. Nevertheless, a retail store, library, or museum may permit one customer at a time to enter if strict adherence to the 30% total occupancy limit would otherwise result in closure. Spaces for indoor dining, including food courts, must be closed.

1. Retail stores must establish lines to regulate entry and checkout, with markings for patrons to enable them to stand at least six feet apart from one another while waiting.

b. At exercise facilities:

1. Gatherings must not exceed 25% of the total occupancy limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal; and

2. There must be at least 12 feet of distance between each occupied workout station;

3. Indoor gatherings for group fitness activities or classes are prohibited. Outdoor gatherings for group fitness activities or classes are permitted.

c. Gatherings in waiting rooms at outpatient health-care facilities, veterinary clinics, and other businesses are prohibited unless the facility implements a system to ensure that persons not of the same household maintain 6 feet of distance. To the extent possible, this system must include a policy that patients wait in their cars for their appointments to be called.

d. Gatherings at an indoor or outdoor pool not otherwise prohibited by this order must not exceed 25 percent of bather capacity limits described in Rule 325.2193 of the Michigan Administrative Code.

e. Gatherings at indoor ice and roller rinks are prohibited, except for individual exercise or one-on-one instruction, where occupancy is limited to 2 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within the exercise space. Gatherings at outdoor ice and roller rinks are permitted, except for organized contact sports, provided that occupancy is limited to 2 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within the exercise space. Gatherings for the purpose of non-contact sports and open skating are permitted only at outdoor rinks.

f. In facilities offering non-essential personal care services, including hair, nail, tanning, massage, traditional spa, tattoo, body art, and piercing services, and similar personal care services, gatherings are only permitted to the extent that services do not involve the removal of face masks. All services must be provided by appointment, and gatherings in waiting areas are prohibited.

4. Schools, colleges, technical schools, and universities.

a. Gatherings at public, nonpublic, and boarding schools for the purpose of conducting in-person instruction of pupils in prekindergarten through grade 12 are permitted, subject to local health department and school district decisions on remote learning. Gatherings are permitted for the purpose of extracurricular activities except those that involve physical contact among participants, a high degree of exhalation or physical exertion indoors, or where masks cannot be worn.

b. Gatherings at public, nonpublic, and boarding schools are permitted for the purpose of child care programs, tutoring and academic support, and for providing services to students in need, including food distribution, access to internet connectivity, and physical and mental health care services.

c. Gatherings at colleges and universities, trade schools, and career schools are permitted for the purpose of holding in-person classes and other events sponsored by the educational institution. The limits imposed by section 2(a) and 2(b) do not apply to such gatherings, but they remain subject to all other applicable requirements of this order.

5. Organized sports gathering restrictions.

a. Gatherings for the purpose of indoor organized sports and contact organized sports are prohibited unless all participants, teams, and venues comply with the enhanced testing regimen specified in the Additional Mitigation Measures for Safer Athletic Practice and Play without the use of Face Coverings section of MDHHS guidance on Additional Measures for Safer Athletic Practice and Play, or a school is participating in an MDHHS testing pilot program. Sports organizers complying with this section may host gatherings for the purpose of practice and competition notwithstanding the gathering prohibitions in section 2.   

b. Gatherings for the purpose of outdoor, non-contact sports are permitted.

6. Face mask requirement at gatherings.

a. All persons participating in gatherings are required to wear a face mask.

b. As a condition of gathering for the purpose of transportation, transportation providers must require all staff and patrons to use face masks, and must enforce physical distancing among all patrons to the extent feasible.

c. Except as provided elsewhere in this order, a person responsible for a business, store, office, government office, school, organized event, or other operation, or an agent of such person, must prohibit gatherings of any kind unless the person requires individuals in such gatherings (including employees) to wear a face mask, and denies entry or service to all persons refusing to wear face masks while gathered.

d. A person responsible for a business, store, office, government office, school, organized event, or other operation, or an agent of such person, may not assume that someone who enters the facility without a face mask falls within one of the exceptions specified in section 8 of this order, including the exception for individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face mask. An individual’s verbal representation that they are not wearing a face mask because they fall within a specified exception, however, may be accepted.

e. A person responsible for a child-care organization or camp, or an agent of such person, must not allow gatherings unless face masks are worn by all staff. Children must wear face masks as indicated below:

1. All children 2 years and older when on a school bus or other transportation provided by the child-care organization or camp;

2. All children 4 years and older when in indoor hallways and indoor common areas;

3. All children 5 years and older when in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor settings.

7. Exceptions to face mask requirements. Although a face mask is strongly encouraged even for individuals not required to wear one (except for children under the age of 2), the requirement to wear a face mask in gatherings as required by this order does not apply to individuals who:

a. Are younger than 5 years old, outside of child-care organization setting (which are subject to requirements set out in section 7(e));

b. Cannot medically tolerate a face mask;

c. Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment or at a private residence;

d. Are exercising outdoors and able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance from others;

e. Are swimming;

f. Are receiving a medical service for which removal of the face mask is necessary;

g. Are asked to temporarily remove a face mask for identification purposes;

h. Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing and whose ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;

i. Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, and where wearing a face mask would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities;

j. Are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election;

k. Are engaging in a religious service; or

l. Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least 6 feet away from the speaker.

8. Contact tracing requirements for particular gatherings.

a. Gatherings are prohibited at the following facilities unless the facility maintains accurate records, including date and time of entry, names of patrons, and contact information, to aid with contact tracing, and denies entry for a gathering to any visitor who does not provide, at a minimum, their name and phone number:

1. All businesses or operations that provide barbering, cosmetology services, body art services (including tattooing and body piercing), tanning services, massage services, or similar personal care services;

2. Exercise facilities.

b. All businesses or operations that provide in-home services, including cleaners, repair persons, painters, and the like must not permit their employees to gather with clients unless the business maintains accurate appointment records, including date and time of service, name of client, and contact information, to aid with contact tracing.

c. Upon request, businesses, schools, and other facilities must provide names and phone numbers of individuals with possible COVID-19 exposure to MDHHS and local health departments to aid in contact tracing and case investigation efforts.

d. Data collected under this section:

1. Must not be sold, or used for sales or marketing purposes without the express consent of each patron;

2. Must be protected as confidential information to the fullest extent of the law;

3. Must not be provided to law enforcement or immigration officials except upon receipt of a lawful subpoena from a court or other lawful court order;

4. Must be retained for 28 days by the collecting organization, after which time the data must be destroyed. If facilities use existing data to fulfill this requirement, they may instead follow their own pre-existing data retention and destruction policies at the conclusion of the 28-day retention period.

9. Implementation.

a. Nothing in this order modifies, limits, or abridges protections provided by state or federal law for a person with a disability.

b. Under MCL 333.2235(1), local health departments are authorized to carry out and enforce the terms of this order.

c. Law enforcement officers, as defined in the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act, 1965 Public Act 203, MCL 28.602(f), are deemed to be “department representatives” for purposes of enforcing this order, and are specifically authorized to investigate potential violations of this order. They may coordinate as necessary with the appropriate regulatory entity and enforce this order within their jurisdiction.

d. Neither a place of religious worship nor its owner is subject to penalty under this order for allowing religious worship at such place. No individual is subject to penalty under this order for engaging in religious worship at a place of religious worship.

e. Consistent with MCL 333.2261, violation of this order is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or a fine of not more than $200.00, or both.

f. Nothing in this order affects any prosecution or civil citation based on conduct that occurred before the effective date of this order.

g. Nothing in this order should be taken to interfere with or infringe on the powers of the legislative and judicial branches to perform their constitutional duties or exercise their authority, or protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution under these emergency circumstances.

h. Consistent with any rule or emergency rule promulgated and adopted in a schedule of monetary civil penalties under MCL 333.2262(1) and applicable to this order, violations of this order are also punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000 for each violation or day that a violation continues.  

i. If any provision of this order is found invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, whether in whole or in part, such decision will not affect the validity of the remaining part of this order.

j. It is not a violation of this order for a person to enter a facility otherwise closed for gatherings if they are entering solely for the purpose of using restroom facilities.

Persons with suggestions and concerns are invited to submit their comments via email to COVID19@michigan.gov.

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