FAQs for the March 5, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order

Face Masks

Q: How is face mask defined under this Order?

A: Face mask means a tightly woven cloth or other multi-layer absorbent material that closely covers an individual's mouth and nose. Medical or surgical grade masks are included within this definition.

Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, neck gaiters, plastic masks, and chin shields do not provide sufficient protection and are not considered "face masks" for the purpose of this Order.

Q: May a face shield be worn in place of a face mask?

A: No. The CDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for cloth face masks. However, a face shield covering the eyes, nose, and mouth can be worn in addition to a cloth mask if desired. Moreover, a face shield may be worn by younger children who are not required to wear a cloth mask, in other settings when a face mask is not required.

Q: May schools require a doctor's note for people who request a mask exemption in a school?

A: Yes. Consistent with the Return to School guidance, schools are permitted (and in fact recommended) to require a doctor's note for persons seeking an exemption from the face masks requirement.

Q: Are masks required at all times within gyms and indoor exercise facilities?    

A: Yes.

Q: May face masks be removed for the purposes of smoking?

A: No. There is no exemption for mask removal for the purpose of smoking. Accordingly, it is a violation of the Order for a person to remove their face mask to smoke tobacco or any other substance (including vaping, marijuana, or herbal substances) while participating in a gathering. This means that tobacco specialty retail stores (including hookah lounges), cigar bars, and other venues that hold an exemption from Part 126 of the Public Health Code cannot permit smoking in their facility.

Gathering sizes and capacity limits

Q: What does "indoors" mean for the purposes of this Order?

A: "Indoors" means a location that is fully or partially enclosed on the top and:

  • fully or partially enclosed on two or more contiguous sides; or
  • if fully or partially enclosed on two non-contiguous sides, any part of that space that is more than 8 feet from an open side is indoors.

Indoor spaces, therefore, include most buildings (such as barns and garages), vehicles (such as buses and trains), and temporary structures (including tents or canopies with side walls or coverings).

Tents with one side are not indoors. Tents with two opposite sides are indoors, except for the spaces within them that are within 8 feet of an open side. Tents with two adjacent sides, three sides, or four sides, are all indoors. The placement of a tent next to a wall, building, or other structure is equivalent to a side. Opening a doorway in the middle of a side does not make that side open. For more information about indoor spaces that are permitted for dining, see Outdoor Seating Enclosures guidance.

Q: What workers are still allowed or required to work in person?

A: Work should be completed remotely unless it is strictly necessary for an employee to be in person to complete their job duties. See MDHHS's Guidance for Employers (Nov. 6, 2020) and MIOSHA's Emergency Rules (Oct. 14, 2020). 

Q: Are film production companies permitted to have more than 25 staff, cast, and crew members gathered for work on a production?

A: Yes, provided that the film production sets are workplaces operating in compliance with MIOSHA's Emergency Rules (Oct. 14, 2020).

Q: Are local government offices still permitted to be open to the public?

A: Yes.

Q: Are public meetings or board meetings permitted under this Order?

A: Yes, up to 25 board members may gather for a meeting. Under Public Act 254 of 2020, public meetings may be conducted virtually for any reason through March 31, 2021.

The public may also attend the meeting in person subject to all applicable masking and distancing requirements. For in-person attendance to be permitted beyond 25 persons, the event must be designed to ensure that persons not part of the same group maintain 6 feet of distance from one another to the fullest extent possible. All meetings covered by the Open Meetings Act - whether conducted virtually or in person - must also comply with Public Act 254 of 2020.

Q: Are visits between foster children and their birth parents, supervised by a caseworker, permitted under this Order?

A: Yes. Parents have a legal right under the probate code to have parenting time with their children at least every 7 days. This has traditionally meant in-person contact unless infeasible or a court order prohibits it. Under this Order, these in-person visits are permitted under the supervision of a caseworker.

Q: Are direct care workers who provide in-home services (such as those who assist elderly or disabled residents with activities of daily living) permitted to continue serving clients in their homes?

A: Yes. This includes individual caretakers and multi-person care teams.

Q: May religious venues host other gatherings such as a bake sale, craft fair, public lecture, or youth group?

A: Yes. However, all activities - other than religious services - conducted in a place of worship are subject to this Order's mask requirements, gathering requirements, and capacity limits.

Indoor gatherings are permitted where no more than a total of 25 people are gathered. Outdoor gatherings are permitted where no more than 300 persons are gathered.

Q: May workplaces, community centers, or other venues continue to host blood drives under this Order?

A: Yes.

Q: Can organizations hold CPR classes?

A: Yes.

Q: Are in-person jury trials allowed?

A: This Order does not prohibit in-person jury trials; the decision on how to conduct judicial hearings is left to the court's discretion. Physical distancing and masking are strongly encouraged.

Q: Are nursing, social work, and dental included within "medical personnel" for the purposes of section 2(c)(5) and "medical services" for the purpose of section 8(f)?

A: Yes.

Q: May racetracks operate under this Order?

A: Yes.

Q: May "millionaire parties" (charity poker events) operate under this Order?

A: Yes, these activities may operate provided they comply with rules for such settings.

Q: Under this Order, may behavioral health services still be provided in person?

A: Yes. Services and activities specified in an individual plan of service (IPOS) for persons with disabilities are considered medical treatment under this Order and are not restricted by this Order's gathering limits. This includes in-person services provided in the home, in communities, and at day centers.

Q: May adult day programs for people with behavioral health needs (such as drop-in centers, clubhouses, or adult skill-building programs) continue in-person operations under this Order?

A: Programs are permitted to remain open to provide physical and behavioral health services for residents, including those related to mental health, substance use, and developmental disability (such as counseling, group programs, peer coaching, and vocational, physical, or occupational therapy). In-person social activities, group fitness, adult education, or enrichment programs are permitted provided they comply with the rules for such settings. All programs should follow the guidance provided by MDHHS specific to their operations and relevant MIOSHA guidance.

Q: May independent living programs offer congregate meals and senior social programs under this Order?

A:  Yes, provided that such gatherings do not exceed a total of 25 people and that all other masking and distancing requirements are followed.

Q: May homeless shelters and warming centers be open under this Order?

A: Yes. The gathering restrictions under the Order do not apply to warming centers and homeless shelters, but all masking and distancing requirements must be followed to the extent possible.

Q: May facilities otherwise closed to members of the public permit members of the public to enter to use restroom facilities under this Order?

A: Yes. Additionally, facilities should continue to comply with MCL 446.72, which requires that individuals with eligible medical conditions be permitted to use employee-only restrooms under certain conditions.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to outdoor festivals, fairs, and parades?

A: Outdoor entertainment and recreation venues are subject to an overall capacity limit of 1,000 persons. Events at such venues must be designed such that groups of patrons may maintain six feet of distance at all times. Everyone must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area.

The consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to weddings, conferences, or other social gatherings at non-residential venues?

A: Indoor weddings may not exceed a total of 25 persons, while outdoor weddings may not exceed a total of 300 persons. If an event has indoor and outdoor components, it must abide by the requirements for an indoor gathering. Everyone must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area.

The consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to indoor tradeshows, expositions, or similar retail settings/events?

A: These types of events may take place if they are only engaging in retail services (not food service or entertainment). Total occupancy must not exceed 50% of the limits established by the fire marshal. All masking and distancing requirements must be followed at all times.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to school events that are open to the public (e.g., athletic competitions, band/choir concerts, performing arts, etc.)

A: Where school-sponsored events are open to the public - including friends, families, and other spectators - they are subject to the rules and restrictions applicable to entertainment and recreational facilities. All applicable masking and distancing requirements must be followed by everyone at all times.

Patrons/spectators must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area. The consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle.

Indoor events are limited to a total of 300 patrons/spectators at any given time and must not exceed 50% of the total occupancy limits established by the fire marshal. Outdoor events are limited to an overall total of 1,000 people (including all athletes, participants, staff, patrons/observers, etc.). All attendees should avoid intermingling and must remain 6 feet apart from all other groups.  

Local health departments, sports organizers, and school districts may have additional rules that must be followed and may further limit total capacity or number of spectators allowed.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to indoor entertainment or recreation venues (e.g., bowling allies, movie theaters, trampoline parks, etc.)?

A: An indoor event, party, conference, or other such social gathering may not exceed a total of 25 persons. Everyone must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area.

However, an indoor entertainment or recreation venue, such as a bowling alley, movie theater, or trampoline park, may permit up to 300 patrons at a time, so long as it maintains 50% capacity or less, and does not allow inter-household gatherings larger than 25 persons.

At such venues, the consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle.

Q: What are the gathering and capacity restrictions that apply to banquet halls and conference venues?

A: Because banquet halls and conference venues are designed to accommodate social gatherings, they are subject to the indoor gathering rules - not the rules for entertainment and recreational facilities.

Indoor events may not exceed a total of 25 persons, while outdoor events may not exceed a total of 300 persons. If an event has indoor and outdoor components, it must abide by the requirements for an indoor gathering. Events at such venues must be designed such that groups of patrons may maintain six feet of distance at all times. Everyone must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area.

The consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle. Indoor dining areas must close after 11:00 PM.

Q: What gathering rules apply to open house events and private real estate showings?

A: Any event that takes place in or at a residence must adhere to the residential gathering limits - even if the residence is vacant. Accordingly, open houses, real estate showings, and all other events at residential properties must not exceed 15 people from 3 households indoors at the same time.

Q: Are indoor playgrounds allowed to open?

A: Yes, as long as staff is present to monitor and ensure that no one comes into physical contact with anyone outside of their group. Total occupancy must not exceed 50% of the limits established by the fire marshal. All masking and distancing requirements must be followed at all times.

The consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle.

Dining and Food Service

Q: What forms of dining at food service establishments are permitted under this Order?

A: Dining at a food service establishment is permitted as follows:

  • Outdoor dining at a food service establishment is permitted only in designated dining areas where patrons are seated. In those settings, no more than 6 patrons may be seated together, and each group of patrons must be spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart. Patrons should keep masks on at all times, except when eating or drinking. A permitted outdoor food service establishment setting also includes a single group dining inside an igloo, hut, or other small, enclosed space, provided that employees enter fleetingly or not at all. Representatives of food service establishments wishing to explore options like these should ensure compliance with any applicable local regulations. Outdoor dining is allowed after 11:00 PM as long as the establishment complies with all other applicable requirements of this Order.
  • Indoor dining is permitted only in designated dining areas where patrons are seated. In those settings, no more than 6 patrons may be seated together. Each group of patrons must be spaced a minimum of 6 feet apart; groups are not permitted to intermingle. Patrons must keep masks on at all times except when eating or drinking. Establishments offering indoor dining may not exceed 50% of normal seating capacity or 100 people - whichever is less. Between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM, sales of all food and beverages must cease, areas for indoor dining must be closed, and guests/patrons are not permitted to eat and/or drink indoors.

 Q: Can a guest be provided water outside the designated hours permitted for indoor dining?  

A: Under the current Order's rules for indoor dining, between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM, sales of all food and beverages must cease, areas for indoor dining must be closed, and guests/patrons are not permitted to eat and/or drink indoors. Food and beverages may not be provided as part of an all-inclusive package during these hours. Nevertheless, facilities may make water available as a courtesy for guests to allow for adequate hydration. 

Q: Do all staff members of a dining establishment need to be gone by 11:00 PM? 

No. Although the indoor dining areas must be closed by 11:00 PM, staff may remain on site as necessary to carry out restaurant operations in compliance with this Order. 

Q: Are airport restaurants and indoor food courts open for in-person dining?

A: Yes, airport restaurants must follow the same rules and capacity limits as indoor food service establishments.

Q: Can a large family with more than 6 people be seated together at a restaurant?

A: Generally, groups larger than 6 people must be seated separately so diners are adequately spaced to reduce transmission of the virus. However, minor children sitting exclusively with their household may be excluded from the patron size limitation to accommodate a family unit with seven or more people dining together. All masking and distancing requirements must be followed.

Q: Are venues or organizations permitted to offer sampling of food or beverages to the public?

A: No. Under the Order, face masks may only be temporarily removed for the purposes of eating or drinking if an individual is seated at a food service establishment in compliance with the other restrictions and limitations in the Order.

Q: May venues hosting athletic events operate concessions?

A: Yes, but the consumption of food or beverages is permitted only while seated in designated areas. While eating/drinking, no more than 6 people may be seated together in a group, and groups must be separated by at least 6 feet; groups may not intermingle. Everyone must remain masked at all times unless they are eating or drinking while sitting in a designated area.

If a concession stand is a food service establishment (i.e., cooks or prepares food), then it must also abide by all other applicable rules and restrictions under the Order.

Exercise and Athletics

Q: What organized sports are permitted under this Order?

A: Beginning Monday, February 8 ,2021, organized sports are permitted as follows:

  • Non-contact sports - practices and competitions are permitted if all participants always maintain at least 6 feet of distance from each other and if the gatherings do not exceed 50% of the total occupancy limits established by the fire marshal. Face masks are required at all times.
  • Contact sports - practices and competitions are prohibited unless sports organizers comply with the capacity limitations applicable to entertainment and recreational facilities under this Order and ensure that all participants wear a mask at all times during the event. If the sports organizer has determined that -  due to the nature of the type of sport or activity - a mask cannot be worn safely during play, the sports organizer must comply with the enhanced testing regimen specified in MDHHS's Guidance for Athletics. There are no exceptions to the mask requirement for any individual athlete, team, or game/event for any reason.

Examples of contact sports include football, basketball, rugby, field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, hockey, boxing, futsal, and martial arts with opponents. Sports practices/conditioning sessions for contact sports are permitted, provided that contact does not occur between players.

Q: May an individual athlete be exempted from the mask requirement if he/she has a doctor's note?

A: No. There are no mask exemptions for any individual athlete, team, or game/event; a sports organizer may only determine that a type of sport or activity - across the entire league - cannot be done safely with a mask. If an athlete cannot tolerate a mask for any reason, he/she has the option to either not participate or to adjust the level of intensity of physical activity so that wearing a cloth face mask is tolerable. Please see MDHHS's Guidance for Athletics for more information.

Q: Is it ok that school teams meet for practices and competitions even while attending school virtually?

A: Yes. Each school district has discretion on whether to choose to open classrooms and conduct in-person lessons. Similarly, each district may choose whether to allow students to participate in sports. School districts must comply with section 6 of this Order. Even when not otherwise required, sports organizers should comply with MDHHS's Guidance for Athletics.

Q: May athletes remove their masks on the sideline during a sports competition in order to hydrate?

A: Yes. Athletes may temporarily lift or lower their face masks while on the sideline to hydrate. To facilitate social distancing, hydration stations should be at least 6 feet away from any seating area.

Q: Are group fitness classes permitted to operate?

A: Yes, exercise facilities may operate at 30% capacity and group classes are allowed provided there is no physical contact between participants, participants maintain at least 6 feet of distance from one another at all times, and all participants wear a face mask.

Q: May ski facilities operate?

A: Yes, skiing areas are permitted to remain open. Distancing measures, such as closing off seats on ski lifts, are encouraged. Gathering in indoor facilities such as lodges and restaurants are permitted subject to the limitations of this Order.

Q: Are personal training, individual coaching, or private lessons allowed at gyms, pools, skating rinks, and other exercise venues under this Order?

A: Yes. Individual private lessons, individual coaching, or personal training (with one participant and one coach/trainer) are permitted under Section 2(c)(2).

Q: Are steam rooms, ice plunges, saunas, and hot tubs at gyms or spas required to close?

A: No. These facilities may be open for individual use or incidental gatherings of individuals observing capacity limits for indoor non-fixed gatherings.

Q: Are swim lessons permitted under this Order?

A: Yes.

Q: What is the distinction between a water park and a swimming pool under this Order?

A: A water park - which is not permitted to operate under this Order - is a recreational facility with water features including pools, slides, sprinklers, and the like, which primarily serves an entertainment or recreational purpose, and which is open for unstructured play. Swimming pools that are permitted to operate under this Order are those which are used for individual exercise or organized sports, such as those set up with individual lanes for lap swimming and which do not contain large open areas of water for unstructured group play.

Q: What restrictions apply to athletic events such as 5k runs and bike races?

A: These races are non-contact sports, which are prohibited unless the sports organizer ensures that all participants maintain 6 feet of distance from each other when not engaged in the race and that all other masking and distancing requirements are followed. The event is limited to an overall total of 300 people.

Local health departments and sports organizers may have additional rules that must be followed and may further limit total allowable capacity.

Schools and Universities

Q: Are elementary, middle, and high schools permitted to be open for in-person instruction under this Order?

A: Yes. All schools (preschool through grade 12) may be open for in-person instruction, subject to local school district decisions on remote learning.

Q: Are elementary, middle, and high schools permitted to be open for purposes other than in-person instruction?

A: Yes. All schools (preschool through grade 12) may also offer childcare services - including care for children before or after school hours - and community support services such as meal distribution or medical care at a school-based health clinic.  

Q: What nonathletic extracurricular activities are permitted under this Order?

A: Extracurricular activities related to student academic organizations, performing arts, athletics, and volunteer work are permitted, except those where masks cannot be worn. Activities involving singing and the use of musical instruments are permitted so long as masks can be worn at all times; slit masks are permitted only when students are playing wind or brass instruments. Please see MDHHS's Guidance for Band, Choir, and Orchestra Programs for more information.

Q: May community centers offer in-person tutoring services under this Order?

A: Yes, for children in preschool through grade 12.

Q: Under this Order, may organizations offer in-person sittings for nationally administered proctored examinations, such as the SAT, ACT, LSAT, Medical Boards, Advanced Placement (AP) exams, or professional licensure exams?

A: Yes, provided that the examination is not offered remotely and that those taking the examination are spaced at least 6 feet apart. 

If the examination is proctored and administered by a school to its own students during the school day, it may be administered consistent with section 5(a) of the Order. Masks must be worn at all times.

Q: Are college and university students permitted to work in medical or scientific labs or other on-campus jobs?

A: Yes. Students may work in facilities such as hospitals, labs, libraries, dining halls, or other workplaces that are open and in compliance with MIOSHA's Emergency Rules (Oct. 14, 2020).

Q: May colleges and universities host campus tours for prospective students?

A: Yes. College and university campus tours are not subject to the gathering restrictions under section 2(a) and 2(b) under this Order, but they must comply with all other requirements of this Order. 

Q: Are schools permitted to go on field trips?

A: Yes, but groups are limited to 25 people and must not mingle with others from outside their group. Where school-sponsored events take place off school grounds, they are subject to the rules and restrictions applicable to the hosting facility or venue. All applicable masking and distancing requirements must be followed by everyone at all times.

Q: Are aviation schools permitted to operate?

A: Yes, one-on-one instruction at aviation schools is permitted.

Q: Are religious schools exempt from the gathering rules, mask requirements, or capacity limits in this Order?

A: No. These requirements apply to all schools equally. However, students and staff engaging in religious worship at a designated place of religious worship will not be subject to penalty under this Order.