The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Washtenaw County Health Department announced emergency measures Oct. 5 to keep COVID-19 prevention and control strategies in place, after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling last week created uncertainty for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.

Washtenaw County Health Officer Jimena Loveluck issued countywide orders on the use of face coverings, social gatherings, bar and restaurant capacity and employee health screenings that effectively continue requirements put in place by the governor’s statewide orders. 

The state Department of Health and Human Services also issued a new emergency public health order requiring masks and limiting gatherings statewide. The new requirements closely track with the governor’s executive orders, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said, but they are based on authority derived from the public health code, which is separate from the laws the governor used as authority for her previous executive orders.

The state and local orders are largely consistent with policies and procedures put in place by the University of Michigan for community members while on campus. U-M, which continues to work closely with the county health department to address the pandemic, supports the continuation of these safety measures, Chief Health Officer Preeti Malani said.

The Washtenaw County orders confirm that residents, businesses and organizations can and should continue following public health guidance to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19 locally:

  • Use face coverings in all public settings and anywhere 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained between individuals not living in the same house. With some exceptions, U-M requires face coverings indoors and outdoors while on campus.
  • Limit the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings and require measures to prevent the spread of illness. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people; outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. In other areas, outdoor gatherings of up to 100 persons are permitted, with face coverings recommended.
  • Keep the capacity of bars and restaurants to 50 percent or less.
  • Continue to complete mandatory, daily health screenings of employees. U-M requires the use of the ResponsiBLUE health tracker for students or employees working or studying on the Ann Arbor campus.

“There is no question that wearing face coverings, keeping distance, cleaning hands and fully cooperating with health officials reduces the spread of COVID-19 and prevents additional cases,” said Loveluck.

“We must continue working together to reduce the spread of illness and protect everyone’s health. The pandemic is not over, and we must remain cautious — even as we work to resume as much normalcy as possible as safely as possible.”

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