LANSING – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed executive orders 2020-160 and 2020-161 Wednesday evening, July 29, amending Michigan’s Safe Start Order and issuing revised workplace safeguards. 

Under the Safe Start Order, starting July 31, statewide indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people and bars, with certain restrictions, will be closed for indoor service across the state, including in Regions 6 and 8.   

“As we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Michiganders cannot afford to drop our guard. We must take every step possible to save lives, protect the brave men and women on the front lines, and avoid overwhelming our healthcare system while we continue to combat COVID-19,” said Whitmer. “After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy. By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.”   

Whitmer said COVID-19’s resurgence is closely associated with super-spreading events at large social gatherings, often attended by young people. She said an outbreak at an East Lansing bar has resulted in 187 infections; more than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline; and a sandbar party at Torch Lake over the July 4 weekend led to at least 43 confirmed cases. 

Therefore, Whitmer said, Executive Order 2020-160 limits statewide indoor gatherings to 10 people or less and, across most of the state, limits outdoor gatherings to 100. The outdoor gathering limits will remain at 250 in Regions 6 and 8.  

Executive Order 2020-160 also orders that bars in every region, including those in regions 6 and 8, must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70 percent of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages.  

Under the governor’s orders, Detroit casinos will also be allowed to open on Aug. 5, but their occupancy will be limited to 15  capacity. Casinos must also, among other things, conduct a daily entry screening protocol for customers and employees, temperature screening. Casinos must require patrons to wear a face covering, except while eating or drinking or for identification purposes. 

Executive Order 2020-160 will rescind executive orders 2020-110, 2020-115, 2020-120, 2020-133, and 2020-143. 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon issued an emergency order also on July 29 reinforcing executive orders 2020-160 and 2020-161 and allowing for civil fines of up to $1,000 and referral to licensing agencies for violations.

This new order rescinds a June 5 order referencing earlier versions of the governor’s orders, according to Gordon.

“Michigan’s efforts to suppress the virus have reduced Michigan’s infection rate from among the highest in the country to a rate similar to the national average,” Gordon said. “However, case counts have recently trended upward, from fewer than 100 cases per day in mid-June, to between 500 and 1,000 per day in recent days. We must remain vigilant in our response to this ongoing threat and take all appropriate measures to reduce its impact.”

He said any violations of this Emergency Order by a person regulated by a licensing agency must be referred to the relevant licensing agency for a determination on whether to pursue additional enforcement action on a case-by-case basis.  

According to a press release issued by MDHHS, pursuant to MCL 333.2235(1), local health departments are authorized to carry out and enforce the terms of this order. Law enforcement officers may enforce this order and are authorized to investigate potential violations. They may coordinate as necessary with the local health department and enforce this order within their jurisdiction.  

Law enforcement officers, as defined in the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act, 1965 Public Act 203, MCL 28.602(f), are deemed to be “department representatives” for purposes of enforcing this order and are specifically authorized to investigate potential violations of this order. They may coordinate as necessary with the appropriate regulatory entity and enforce this order within their jurisdiction, the MDHHS said in a statement.

Criminal penalties for violation of the governor’s executive orders will remain an option for prosecutors. The emergency order is issued under MCL 333.2253(1). 

Michigan Republican Party released the following statement on behalf of Chairman Laura Cox in response to Whitmer’s new executive orders. 

“It has become clear that Governor Whitmer has her sights set on the VP nomination and is willing to do or say whatever it takes to make it happen. For months, she sat back and blamed federal and state Republican leaders for her own administration’s shortcomings, and has enacted hundreds of executive orders to capture the attention of the Biden Campaign. 

“Yet just like the 2019 budget, ‘fixing the damn roads’, auto insurance reform, or the state’s COVID-19 response, Whitmer will likely fail at this too – and at the cost of so many Michiganders. For once I wish the governor would realize the real-life consequences her thirst for political advancement has for the people of our state.”

Executive orders 2020-160 and 2020-161 were initially leaked around 3 p.m. on July 29, but were not officially released until a little after 7 p.m. – when the governor made time for yet another CNN appearance, according to the Michigan Republican Party.