State News

What's allowed and what's not: 10 details in Michigan's renewed epidemic order

December 07, 2020, 3:25 PM by  Alan Stamm

This is adapted from a post Nov. 18, the day a statewide "Pause to Save Lives" epidemic took effect. It's now lengthened through Dec. 20.

The health department Monday extended its ban on certain commercial, education and recreation activities, and stressed that it "does not include a blanket stay-home action."

No-fly zones through Sunday, Dec. 20.
(Graphic: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services)

A news release says:

Employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, including those in manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open.

Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment; and individualized exercise at a gym, with extra spacing between machines.

All that seems clear, yet a dive into the revised details uncovers a few oddities. Alternative high schools can continue in-person classes, though regular ones can't, for instrance. Wearing a clear face shield doesn't mean it's OK to shop or work unmasked, for instance. 

In an effort to clarify the fuzzy edges of its epidemic order, the state health department has a FAQs page with 39 items that vary from helpful to hilarious ("what does public transit mean?" and "what does fixed seating mean?")

Actually, some only appear amusing -- such as question five: "What does 'indoors' mean [in] this order?"

The answer is surprisingly tricky, so it's the first of 10 notable details below of what's in and what's out through Dec. 9 -- if Covid's current surge has eased enough by then to allow a partial or full lifting.

And if you get why Pine Knob ski area can open, but The Rink at Campus Martius can't, you must think like an epidemiologist. 

Lumen Detroit's open "chalets" at left are OK, but the closed "igloo" domes are only for members of one household. (Photo: Instagram)

Can restaurants use tents or other shelters? Yes, but only if partly open.

The state defines "indoors" as "a space enclosed fully or partially on the top, and enclosed fully or partially on two or more adjacent sides. Indoor spaces therefore include most buildings (such as barns and garages) ... and temporary structures (including tents or canopies with side walls or coverings)."

So "igloo" domes, such as those outside Lumen Detroit (above), are off-limits to groups of friends or work colleagues. "A permitted outdoor food service establishment setting includes a single household dining inside an igloo, hut or other small, enclosed space," say the rules, "provided that employees enter fleetingly or not at all." 

Can we eat at airport restaurants? Nope -- takeout only.

Can churches, mosques and synagogues hold social events? Nuh-uh, so forget any holiday season bake sales, craft fairs or community activities. (Worship is exempt.)

Pine Knob (top) can open when it's cold enough for sustained snowmaking. The Rink at Campus Martius, which opened last weekend, is shut at least three weeks.

► Is downhill skiing allowed? Yes, though lodges and restaurants can't open and teams can't practice or compete.

► Can ice rinks open? Yes, indoor and outdoor skating is allowed for individual

exercise or a single athlete with a coach. Rinks can't open for gatherings or organized sports. Group skating and free skating is permitted only at outdoor rinks.

How about blood drives? All-clear, including at workplaces and community centers.

Can face shields substitute for masks? No, except for athletes in specific conditions.

► Are college students' campus jobs off-limits? No, students can work at labs, libraries, dining halls, hospitals or other workplaces.

► What about cafeterias and soup kitchens? Medical facilities, school cafeterias, shelters and soup kitchens can serve indoors if diners are seated six feet apart. (Family members may share a table.)

Can city, township and county offices serve the public in person? Yes.

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