MI Dept of Health Issues Emergency Order Reinforcing Governor, Allowing $1K Fines

Saying that key orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s series of Executive Orders are “needed to control the COVID-19 epidemic,” the Director of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services has issued an Emergency Order of his own allowing for civil fines of up to $1,000 and referrals to state licensing agencies for violations.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon has issued his own Emergency Order finding that the procedures and restrictions in Executive Orders 2020-69, 2020-71, 2020-91 and 2020-92 are needed to control the COVID-19 epidemic.

This new order rescinds an April 2nd order that made the same finding with respect to earlier versions of the governor’s orders.

Gordon says, “More than 51,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in our state, and appropriate social distancing is the primary tool available to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.” He goes on to say, “The real heroes of this crisis are the medical workers, first responders and other essential workers who are putting their lives on the line for us every day. We owe it to them to do what we can ourselves to stop the spread of the virus. The Executive Orders issued by the Governor are intended to protect the health and safety of all Michiganders. A civil penalty and potential licensing actions send a strong message to Michiganders that we are serious about enforcing these orders.”

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The Emergency Order requires that everyone must comply with the procedures and restrictions outlined in the following Executive Orders:

  • Executive Order 2020-69, which places temporary restrictions on the use of places of public accommodation.
  • Executive Order 2020-71, which establishes temporary safety measures for food-selling establishments and pharmacies and temporary relief from requirements applicable to the renewal of licenses for the food-service industry.
  • Executive Order 2020-91, which places safeguards to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19.
  • Executive Order 2020-92, which establishes temporary requirement to suspend certain activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.

Gordon says that any violations of his 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.

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 local health department and enforce this order within their jurisdiction.

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).