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Understanding Michigan Health Department Rules on Masks

May 18, 2021
On Friday, May 14, Gov. Whitmer announced new state guidelines for wearing masks one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) said that “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

In response to the Governor’s announcement, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an updated Epidemic Order. The order left in most of the requirements addressing capacity and gathering restrictions, curfews for restaurants, and contact tracing requirements for certain businesses; however, it did update mask-wearing guidance to match the CDC updates.

 Updated Rule on Masks 

Rule seven of the MDHHS Epidemic Order provides guidance on wearing a mask.

“Exceptions to face mask requirement. The requirement to wear a face mask at indoor gatherings does not apply to individuals who:

    1. Are fully vaccinated persons;
    2. Are younger than 2 years old;
    3. Cannot medically tolerate a face mask;
    4. Are eating or drinking while seated in a designated area or at a private residence;
    5. Are swimming;
    6. Are receiving a medical or personal care service for which removal of the face mask is necessary;
    7. Are asked to temporarily remove a face mask for identification purposes;
    8. Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing and whose ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
    9. Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, and where wearing a face mask would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities;
    10. Are engaging in a religious service;
    11. Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least 12 feet away from the speaker; or
    12. Are engaging in an activity that requires removal of a mask not listed in another part of this section, and are in a facility that provides ventilation that meets or exceeds 60 ft3/min of outdoor airflow per person.”

In terms of verification of vaccination status, the Order says (emphasis added): “A person responsible for an establishment, or an agent of such person, must prohibit gatherings of any kind at their establishment unless the person makes a good faith effort to ensure that all persons at their establishment (including employees) comply with the indoor face mask requirement. For purposes of this section, a ‘good faith effort’ may include any of the following:

  • Posting a sign notifying people that wearing a mask is required unless a person falls into a specified exception;
  • Asking patrons not wearing masks whether they fall into a specified exception;
  • Requiring face masks of all patrons and employees;
  • Or any other policy designed to ensure compliance with the indoor face mask requirement.”

What Comes Next 

Businesses throughout the state are in the process of updating their business practices to comply with the new Epidemic Order. While many have removed mask requirements for vaccinated patrons, others are waiting for guidance from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). MIOSHA’s Emergency Rules mandate social distancing and mask-wearing requirements related to the workplace and specific industries, including restaurants and bars, retailers, libraries, museums, health care, personal-care services (barbering, cosmetology, tanning, massage, etc.), public accommodations (sports and entertainment facilities), gyms, and casinos.

“MIOSHA will soon post updated workplace rules reflecting the CDC’s recent guidance on face masks for fully vaccinated people,” Sean Egan, COVID-19 workplace safety director for MIOSHA, said in a statement. “Until then, MIOSHA will consider compliance with the MDHHS order as good faith to comply when responding to employee complaints or conducting investigations related to COVID-19.”

New rules are expected from MIOSHA in advance of office reopenings following the state reaching a 55% vaccination rate, in accordance with the “MI Vacc to Normal” plan. The Detroit Regional Chamber and MICHauto will provide further updates when the new rules are issued.