Health department: Schools must disclose COVID cases within 24 hours; nursing home visits still limited

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued two new rules Tuesday to replace Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's former orders on school COVID-19 case notification and practices for congregate care facilities. 

The first orders will require K-12 schools to provide public notice if they have a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 among students, faculty or staff. The order is effective Monday and lasts through Oct. 30.

The second order limits visitations and communal dining at congregate care facilities as well as mandating notice of cases among employees, residents and legal guardians. The order is effective immediately and lasts through Oct. 30.

Fifth-grade teacher Kelli Mason of Scotch Elementary school prepares to send her five-year-old son Trent Mason off to school at Gretchko Elementary school during the first day of classes at Scotch Elementary School in West Bloomfield, Thursday, August 27, 2020, West Bloomfield.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon has now issued three orders after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that Whitmer's executive orders were invalid because the law underpinning them was unconstitutional. 

Immediately after the ruling, Whitmer noted she could also issue rules through her state agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Michigan's public health code in the event of an epidemic allows the department director to prohibit gatherings or create procedures that would "insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws.

"Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code," the law said. 

Republican lawmakers have criticized the use of the department to issue orders, arguing the orders are an end-run around the negotiations between the governor and Legislature that the Supreme Court ruling encouraged. 

According to the department order, the notice to the school community must go out within 24 hours after the local health department informs a school of the case, according to the order. The local health department must also notify close contacts of the associated case. 

"Schools are encouraged to provide information about measures in place at the school to prevent transmission of COVID-19, as well as measures that individuals can take to prevent transmission," the order said.

The residential care order requires a facility to notify the public health department, employees, residents and guardians of a positive COVID-19 case within 12 hours of identifying it. Public notice must also be posted at the entrance to the facility. 

The order also limits visits to nursing homes, adult foster care, assisted living and homes for the aged to socially distanced outdoor visits by appointment and indoor visits to "assist with activities of daily living and for compassionate care."

Visits are allowed in child caring facilities and juvenile justice facilities by appointment so long as visitors are screened, have a designated entry and a designated visitation area. 

Communal dining is limited to guidance issued the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the state health department. 

The order also requires residential care facilities to keep records of Personal Protection Equipment supplies and report that information to the state.