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Michigan health department issues capacity limit, contact tracing rules

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules Friday that reinstate capacity limits at 50% at restaurants, museums, retail stores and libraries, and require workers to wear masks if they cannot maintain six feet of distance. 

The epidemic order allows for gatherings at professional sports facilities, entertainment venues, cinemas and theaters so long as patrons not of the same household can maintain six feet of distance. 

Those entertainment venues as well as barber shop, salons, fitness centers, bowling alleys and skating rinks must keep accurate records of guests, their phone numbers and the time they visited to aid in contact tracing. 

In-home services such as cleaners, painters or maintenance workers must keep accurate appointment records in order to aid in contact tracing.

The order lifts any closures on bars, but bars and restaurants may only serve alcohol if parties are seated at tables that are six feet apart.  

The order issued Friday includes several provisions that were previously included in the department's Monday epidemic order, which has since been rescinded, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. 

"We wanted to ensure clarity and chose to reissue the requirements from Monday along with that additional information in one order," Sutfin said. "The order from Oct. 5 is rescinded."

All of the rules have exceptions for Northern Michigan's Region 6, where rules are looser because of a lower case incidence. Region 6 includes Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle and Emmet counties.

The order largely recreates those rules issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that were rendered moot when the Michigan Supreme Court last week ruled 4-3 that a law underpinning her executive orders was unconstitutional.

Whitmer since has shifted her COVID-19 prevention efforts to the authority of the state health department, which issues orders under a separate law. But critics have argued that it is an end around working with the Republican-controlled Legislature to form new COVID-19 policies in the wake of the high court's ruling.

“Our goal is to maintain policies that have made a drastic difference in the fight against COVID-19,” Department Director Robert Gordon said. “Cases are rising, and the science is clear. Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing reduces the spread of COVID-19. Public action is critical to saving Michiganders’ lives.”

The epidemic order issued Friday caps gatherings at exercise facilities, including recreation facilities, at 25% of occupancy. Workout stations must be six feet apart. 

Gatherings at the Detroit casinos can't exceed 15% capacity.  

Gatherings at outdoor pools are capped at 50% capacity and indoor pools at 15%. Waiting rooms at health care facilities and other service centers can reopen so long as people maintain six feet of distance.

The order includes more explicit guidance on masks, noting they must be worn in a gathering of two or more in offices, stores, schools or events. It prevents businesses from admitting people without masks unless they have a medical reason for not wearing one. 

Masks are required for gatherings of more than 10 people indoors or more than 100 people outdoors.

At child care centers, all staff must wear masks at all times. Kids over the age two must wear them on public transportation such as a bus and kids over the age of four have to wear them in hallways and common areas. Children over the age of five must wear them in an all indoor spaces.

The order requires employees to conduct a health screening, stops employees in COVID-19 quarantine or isolation from going to work and stops employers from requiring their workers to do so. 

Employees are not able to return until 24 hours after their fever breaks or 10 days after their COVID symptoms disappear or since their last positive COVID test. 

The order reinstates limits on indoor gatherings, previously listed in the Monday order, to up to 10 people in a residential venue or up to 500 masked people at a non-residential venue so long as the 500-person cap doesn't exceed 20% of the venue's seating capacity. In facilities without seating, attendance is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet.

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people at a residence or 1,000 masked people at a non-residential venue so long as the 1,000-person cap doesn't exceed 30% seating capacity. For facilities without seating, attendance is limited to 30 people per 1,000 square feet. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com