COVID-19 Update: The "New" Rules

As anticipated, yesterday afternoon, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) issued an Order that covers many of the issues from the Governor’s prior Executive Orders (which the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on October 2, 2020 she does not have the authority to issue). The Supreme Court decision did not involve DHHS orders.  Details of DHHS’s October 5, 2020 Order are set forth below and go into effect immediately.


Definition of “gathering”: Anytime two or more people from multiple households are in the same space beyond incidental gatherings (such as at an airport, factory floor, restaurant, mall, pool, or workplace).

Indoor gatherings at a residence: Up to 10 people allowed (face coverings strongly recommended).

Indoor gatherings at a non-residential venue: Up to 10 people allowed plus wear a face covering.  Indoor gatherings of more than 10 to up to 500 people occurring at a nonresidential venue are permitted only to the extent that the organizers and venue:

  • If fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% of seating capacity (25% of seating capacity are permitted in Region 6).***
  • If no fixed seating, limit attendance to 20 people per 1,000 square feet in each room (25 people in Region 6).
  • Require that everyone wear a face covering.

Outdoor gatherings at a residence:  Up to 100 people (face coverings recommended).

Outdoor gatherings at a non-residential venue:  Up to 100 people plus wear a face covering.

  • If fixed seating, 100 to 1,000 people  allowed if organizers and venue limit attendance to 30% of seating capacity.
  • If no fixed seating, limit attendance to 30 persons per 1,000 square feet (including within each event space).
  • Require everyone wear a face covering.

Six-Feet Distancing:  Anyone hosting gatherings must ensure that non-household members maintain 6-feet of distancing and design the gathering to encourage this distancing.

*** Region 6 consists of the following counties: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, and Emmet.


Masks Required: Masks are still required when there are indoor gatherings at businesses, government offices, schools, and other operations.  Region 6 schools are excepted (but face coverings are recommended).

Exceptions to face covering requirements:  Although strongly encouraged, the face covering rule does not apply to anyone:

  • Younger than 5 (and per CDC, children under 2 should not wear a mask);
  • Who cannot medically tolerate a face covering;
  • Eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment;
  • Exercising outdoors and able to consistently maintain 6 feet of social distancing;
  • Swimming;
  • Receiving a service for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary;
  • Asked to temporarily remove a face covering for identification purposes;
  • Communicating with someone who is deaf/deafblind/hard of hearing and ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
  • Actively engaged in a public safety role and wearing a mask would seriously interfere in the performance of public safety responsibilities;
  • At a polling place for purposes of voting in an election;
  • Officiating or engaging in a religious service;
  • Giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least six feet from the speaker.

Medical Exception:  While an organization or office cannot just assume someone meets an exception when they enter, the business or operation can accept a verbal representation that they meet an exception.


Restaurants must:

  • Close indoor common areas in which people can congregate, dance, or otherwise mingle;
  • Prohibit indoor gatherings anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption onsite, except for where parties are seated and separated from one another by at least 6 feet, and do not intermingle.


Organizers and venues of organized sports must ensure:

  • Athletes wear a face covering (except when swimming) or consistently maintain 6 feet of social distance (except for occasional and fleeting moments). Even if an athlete has a medical issue, a face covering is required.
  • Follow DHHS guidance for playing a sport safely.
  • Limit live audience up to 2 guests per athlete or comply with gathering requirements above.
  • Indoor organized sports: no concessions may be sold.
  • Professional sports teams and professional athletes may engage in professional sports, provided that: (1) a COVID-19 safety plan is followed that is consistent with CDC guidance and DHHS; and (2) 6-feet distancing is maintained to extent possible for the sport.


Local health departments and law enforcement are authorized to carry out and enforce the order and law enforcement can investigate and enforce the order.

A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months and/or a fine up to $200.  Additionally, violations are punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000. Places of worship and those engaging in worship at such places are not subject to penalty.

Notably missing from this Order are any screening requirements for people entering a venue or place of employment and industry-specific requirements. As noted in the previous update, local health departments are likely to also issue further updates (and in fact have done so in Ingham County on employee daily health screenings).

As always, this update does not constitute legal advice.