Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Where Michigan was once among the states most heavily hit by COVID-19, our per-capita rate of new daily cases has plateaued at a level well below the national average. Despite gradually reopening our economy, Michigan’s seven-day case positivity rate has remained between 3.0% and 3.7% since early July. Over the same time period, case growth has also remained within a narrow band of 63 to 71 daily new cases per million population, by date of symptom onset. Nevertheless, flareups continue to occur in discrete geographic locations, underscoring the importance of ongoing vigilance, and vigorous enforcement at the local level.
Notwithstanding a few outlier counties, our careful approach to reopening in this emergency situation is working. Our state can therefore take another step toward reopening today. An incremental approach—where some activities reopen before others—remains essential to avoid uncontrolled spread, allow us to measure the result of changes, and keep our reopening on track. Beginning October 9, 2020, this order therefore allows for a new set of previously closed business to come back to return with safety precautions, including theaters and cinemas, other performance venues, and a wide variety of recreational facilities.
Moreover, this order relaxes the restrictions on attendance at social gatherings and organized events, which were previously fixed at 10 people indoors and 100 people outdoors for most of the state. Beginning October 9, 2020, most non-residential indoor venues can host social gatherings and organized events so long as they maintain fewer than 20 people per 1,000 square feet and require facial coverings. Performance venues and stadiums, similarly, will be permitted to operate at 20% seating capacity. Such gatherings and events must be no larger than 500 people in the largest indoor venues, in order to reduce the risk of a “superspreader” event. Outdoor gathering and event restrictions will also be relaxed, so long as they maintain fewer than 30 people per 1,000 square feet, or 30% seating capacity, up to 1,000 people in the largest outdoor spaces.
Additional safeguards specific to the workplace can be found in Executive Order 2020-184 or any order that may follow from it.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death. It is caused by a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans and easily spread from person to person. There is currently no approved vaccine for this disease.
On March 10, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. On that same day, I issued Executive Order 2020-4. This order declared a state of emergency across the state of Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency Management Act, 1976 PA 390, as amended (EMA), MCL 30.401 et seq., and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, 1945 PA 302, as amended (EPGA), MCL 10.31 et seq.
Since then, the virus spread across Michigan, bringing deaths in the thousands, confirmed cases in the tens of thousands, and deep disruption to this state’s economy, homes, and educational, civic, social, and religious institutions. On April 1, 2020, in response to the widespread and severe health, economic, and social harms posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I issued Executive Order 2020-33. This order expanded on Executive Order 2020-4 and declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster across the State of Michigan under section 1 of article 5 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Emergency Management Act, and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. And on April 30, 2020, finding that COVID-19 had created emergency and disaster conditions across the State of Michigan, I issued Executive Order 2020-67 to continue the emergency declaration under the EPA, as well as Executive Order 2020-68 to issue new emergency and disaster declarations under the EMA.
Those executive orders have been challenged in Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v. Whitmer. On August 21, 2020, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, her extensions of the state of emergency, and her issuance of related EOs clearly fell within the scope of the Governor’s authority under the EPGA.
On September 3, 2020, I issued Executive Order 2020-177, again finding that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a disaster and emergency throughout the State of Michigan. That order constituted a state of emergency declaration under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. And, to the extent the governor may declare a state of emergency and a state of disaster under the Emergency Management Act when emergency and disaster conditions exist yet the legislature had declined to grant an extension request, that order also constituted a state of emergency and state of disaster declaration under that act.
The Emergency Powers of the Governor Act provides a sufficient legal basis for issuing this executive order. In relevant part, it provides that, after declaring a state of emergency, “the governor may promulgate reasonable orders, rules, and regulations as he or she considers necessary to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.” MCL 10.31(1).
Nevertheless, subject to the ongoing litigation and the possibility that current rulings may be overturned or otherwise altered on appeal, I also invoke the Emergency Management Act as a basis for executive action to combat the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the effects of this emergency on the people of Michigan, with the intent to preserve the rights and protections provided by the EMA. The EMA vests the governor with broad powers and duties to “cop[e] with dangers to this state or the people of this state presented by a disaster or emergency,” which the governor may implement through “executive orders, proclamations, and directives having the force and effect of law.” MCL 30.403(1)–(2). This executive order falls within the scope of those powers and duties, and to the extent the governor may declare a state of emergency and a state of disaster under the Emergency Management Act when emergency and disaster conditions exist yet the legislature has not granted an extension request, they too provide a sufficient legal basis for this order.
Acting under the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, I find it reasonable and necessary, for the reasons outlined above, to order:
Given under my hand and the Great Seal of the State of Michigan.