Washtenaw County issues orders to guard essential workers during coronavirus

The Detroit News

Washtenaw County is the latest to issue emergency orders that require employers of essential-service workers to screen and use social distancing to protect their employees during the coronavirus crisis.

The orders, which take effect at 6 p.m. Thursday and refer to "businesses and entities" and a separate child care order, include essential service providers and businesses that remain open after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order requiring non-essential workers to stay at home.

It follows a similar order that took effect Wednesday in Oakland County that requires daily screenings and mandatory distancing by businesses to limit the spread of the virus. The order includes stores, restaurants and doctor's office.

“We are at a very critical point in our COVID-19 response,” said Jimena Loveluck, Washtenaw County's health officer. “We need to work together to provide only those services and functions that are absolutely necessary and do so as safely as possible. We must limit the potential spread of illness at every single opportunity. No exceptions. This means screening, distance and extra cleaning at any open facility. For everyone else, we’re counting on you to stay home.”

The order requires employers to:

  • Screen everyone. Check employees for fever or other symptoms if they will enter facilities or buildings.
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance between people whenever possible.
  • Emphasize frequent and proper hand washing. Make sure sinks are well supplied.
  • Work remotely whenever possible.
  • Not to share space or equipment. If this is not possible, have employees wash their hands before and after using shared equipment. Clean and sanitize equipment between uses.
  • Have any employee with cold symptoms or underlying health conditions stay home or work remotely.

The Oakland County order issued by County Executive Dave Coulter prompted criticism from one small-business association, which said the measures go too far and could force some firms to close.