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Community updates: Tuesday, Oct. 6

MDHHS issues order restoring COVID-19 rules after Michigan Supreme Court ruling; Kent County Health Department, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Mayor Bliss respond.
Downtown Grand Rapids during the fall season.

Downtown Grand Rapids during the fall season. /Experience Grand Rapids

MDHHS issues order restoring COVID-19 rules after Michigan Supreme Court ruling

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Monday issued an emergency order largely reinstating Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-related executive orders, such as required face covering use and limits on social gatherings and venues.

Whitmer’s COVID-related orders were struck down on Oct. 2, after Michigan's Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that her authority to declare and extend states of emergency related to the virus – the basis for her orders – was unconstitutional. Whitmer has argued her orders still remain in effect until at least Oct. 23.

The MDHHS’ new emergency order relies on authorities first enacted after the 1918 Spanish flu, which weren’t at issue in the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision.

“New risks around COVID are rising: students are back in school, colder weather is moving us indoors, and flu season is approaching,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “The number of cases has been creeping up, too. We are tired of the virus, but the virus isn’t tired of us.”

Effective immediately, face covering use will continue being required at indoor gatherings where people from multiple households are present in a shared space of two people or more.

For indoor venues, attendance is limited to 20% of normal capacity, or 20 people per 1,000 square feet. Outdoor venues have a limited attendance of 30% of normal capacity, or 30 people per 1,000 square feet. An exception to venue attendance limits applies only to the Traverse City region, which has slightly higher limits.

Also in effect across the state is the prohibition of indoor gatherings anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold, except for table services where parties are separated from one another by at least six feet.

“As in the spring, orders are still critical to make clear the shared norms that each of us must follow so all of us can stay healthy,” Gordon said. “For those of us who sometimes waver – and after seven months, that’s most of us – orders require us, as a matter of law and civic responsibility, to stay the course and protect each other.”

The MDHHS’ order currently remains in effect through Oct. 30.

The full order is available on the MDHHS’ website.


Kent County Health Department affirms isolation, quarantine orders unaffected

Responding to the Michigan Supreme Court’s Oct. 2 ruling, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) released a Monday statement affirming that orders for isolation and quarantine are not affected.

“Actions such as orders for isolation and quarantine are not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said KCHD Director Dr. Adam London. “These actions are authorized under the Michigan Public Health Code, a law that was enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 1978.”

London said the KCHD will continue to use public health orders and enforcement actions for COVID-19 as appropriate under law, as it’s done for many decades. He also urged residents to continue following CDC guidelines.

“The KCHD stresses the importance of adhering to the guidelines set forth by the [CDC] to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he continued. “Those strategies include wearing facial coverings in indoor public places, maintaining social distance, frequent handwashing, and staying home if you are sick.”

The full KCHD statement is available on its website.


Grand Rapids Public Schools keeps Preparedness and Response Plan unchanged

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) also released a Monday statement on the Oct. 2 ruling, co-penned by Superintendent Leadriane Roby and Grand Rapids Board of Education President Kristian Grant.

The leaders discussed the district’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, which remains unchanged, despite being based on Whitmer’s now struck-down orders.

“At this time, we are not altering the health and safety protocols within our COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan . . . approved by the Grand Rapids Board of Education,” the leaders said. “To be clear, face coverings will still be required for all students, staff, and members of the public.”

The GRPS’ statement came prior to the MDHHS’ emergency order, which has continued the mandate of face covering use in Michigan schools, except for the Traverse City region.

“We want to convey that all protocols remain in place until further notice,” the leaders added.

The full GRPS statement is available in its Monday newsletter.


Mayor Bliss supports MDHHS’ order

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss voiced her support of the MDHHS’ order, saying in a Monday statement that it’s important for residents to protect each other against COVID-19’s spread.

“For the safety of everyone in our community, it is critically important that we all do our part to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Bliss. “Wearing masks in public spaces and maintaining physical distance from others to ensure adequate space is available for social distancing is essential.”

“I strongly urge all Grand Rapidians to continue to follow these and other CDC guidelines.”

Bliss’ statement is available in a post on her official Facebook page.


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