Detroit extends emergency health order governing access to public meetings

The Detroit News

Detroit — Amid an ongoing surge in COVID-19, the city's top health official is extending an emergency order that will allow the public remote access to government meetings. 

Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo on Thursday issued the order to ensure the public is able to view meetings virtually, once government bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act resume in person after Dec. 31, 2021, "to protect the public health from further transmission of COVID-19 within the city."

For those who are physically present at public meetings, the order also requires social distancing through March 31, 2022.

The order notes many areas of the city have vaccination rates below the level required to achieve community immunity to limit the spread of the virus. It remains concerning, the order notes, as the spread of COVID-19 might result in emerging and more dangerous variants, including the delta or omicron variants. 

Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo.

"...all bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act must continue to allow members of the public to remotely and effectively participate in government meetings," the order notes. 

The order might be revised or supplemented as time goes on, Fair Razo noted. 

“Protecting the public’s health and safety remains our number one priority while recognizing the responsibility to provide open access to public meetings.” Fair Razo said in a statement. “This order will help reduce the risks associated with COVID-19 to the personal health and safety of both members of the public and public bodies.”

Detroit was hard-hit early on in the pandemic. As of Thursday, the city has recorded 76,202 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,619 deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020.