Gov. Whitmer announces updates to Return-to-Work Safety Guidelines, releases new epidemic order expanding capacity limits

LANSING – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday updates to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 emergency rules as many employers return to in-person work. Whitmer also announced an updated Michigan Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Gatherings and Face Masks epidemic order, eliminating outdoor capacity limits and increasing indoor social gatherings to 50 percent capacity, which is set to take effect on June 1.

“As we work to put Michigan back to work, we are moving quickly to invest in our families, small businesses, and communities to help them succeed,” Whitmer said. “The reason we can take these steps is thanks to every Michigander who has stepped up and taken action to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe. Together, we are eliminating this once-in-a-century virus, and now we are poised to jumpstart our economy and power it to new highs.”

As part of a bipartisan agreement announced by Whitmer, MIOSHA filed updated COVID-19 emergency rules in accordance with the MI Vacc to Normal plan and recent health guidelines and orders. Now that the state has reached the 55 percent vaccination threshold, MIOSHA has removed the requirement that employers must create a “policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.” The agency has also rescinded the draft permanent COVID-19 rules, and the public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, May 26 is canceled.

“As we work with the administration to get back to normal, protecting Michigan workers on the job remains the top priority for MIOSHA,” said Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity Acting Director Susan Corbin. “These updated emergency rules will give workers and businesses the clarity and confidence they need to bring our economy back to full-strength.”

MIOSHA has updated other aspects of the emergency rules to reflect the recent order from MDHHS and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those changes include:

  • Employers may allow fully vaccinated employees to not wear face coverings and social distance provided they have a policy deemed effective to ensure non-vaccinated individuals continue to follow these requirements.
  • The rules have been reformed focusing on performance, eliminating industry-specific requirements. Definitions have been updated to more clearly reflect changes in close contact and quarantining requirements for fully vaccinated employees.
  • Cleaning requirements have been updated to reflect changes in CDC recommendations.
  • Employers should continue to have and implement a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan in accordance with the updated rules.

MIOSHA filed the updated emergency rules on Friday, May 21, with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules and anticipates these changes will take effect Monday, May 24. While the updated emergency rules will expire on Thursday, October 14, as this announcement demonstrated, MIOSHA has the flexibility it needs to ensure consistency with public health guidelines and can rescind all or parts of the rules.

Based on the science and data at the time the process of creating permanent rules began, the agency utilized the process provided by law to ensure it could continue to keep employees safe if the pandemic remained when the emergency rules expired. With the recent updates from CDC and the MDHHS epidemic orders, MIOSHA is confident that these rules are unnecessary.

For additional information, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety.

MDHHS also updated its COVID-19 Gatherings and Face Masks epidemic order, eliminating outdoor capacity limits and increasing indoor social gatherings, including weddings, conferences and funerals, to 50 percent capacity. Under the new order, which goes into effect Tuesday, June 1, and continues through Thursday, July 1, masks will continue to be required indoors for individuals who are not yet vaccinated.

“We continue to move toward normalcy as more and more Michiganders get vaccinated,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “The updated CDC guidelines demonstrate just how safe and effective the COVID-19 vaccine truly is and how well it is working.”

MDHHS continues to urge Michiganders to follow CDC guidance, even where not specifically required by an epidemic order, including masking up at schools, on the bus or train and in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters. People who are not fully vaccinated are recommended to mask up outdoors in crowded settings like a baseball game or concert. Organizations and businesses have the authority to put into place policies and guidelines that make sense for their operations and for the safety of their employees and customers.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of the virus. The vaccines are safe and effective and vaccinated people can do so many more things safely,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “We have made great progress with our vaccination efforts, but the pandemic is not over. We are working to make sure vaccines are accessible to everyone at their doctor’s office, in their neighborhoods, or even in their homes. By getting vaccinated as soon as possible Michiganders can protect themselves, their families and their communities and help end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

The latest COVID-19 information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.

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