New orders extend protections for Michigan nursing home residents and staff, grocery store workers

Gov. Whitmer signs new executive orders extending health, safety protocols

Nurse practitioner Sadie Paez uses a stethoscope to listen to the chest of William Merry, who is recovering from pneumonia at his home, Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Ipswich, Mass. As hospitals care for people with COVID-19 and try to keep others from catching the virus, more patients are opting to be treated where they feel safest: at home. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (Elise Amendola, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two new executive orders on Saturday that extend protections for frontline workers at grocery stores, pharmacies and long-term care facilities amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

One of the new orders, 2020-178, focuses on protecting customers and staff members at grocery stores and pharmacies. Through September 30, stores will continue to be required to offer special shopping hours for vulnerable populations and notify employees about any COVID-19 infections among staff.

The second order, 2020-179, continues to require long-term care facilities to maintain the state’s infection control protocols through September 30, which include conducting COVID-19 testing, disinfecting, social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). The order also “protects residents from eviction and employees from retaliatory action for staying home when exhibiting symptoms,” according to a press release from Whitmer’s office.

“Michigan has worked hard to fight COVID-19, but the fight is not over yet. We can’t let our guard down and must continue to step up to do our part to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Frontline workers in our hospitals, grocery stores, nursing homes, and more have put their own lives on the line to protect our families,” Whitmer said. “By extending these orders, we can protect our frontline heroes and most vulnerable populations from this virus and ensure they are able to work and live in a safe environment.”

Whitmer has previously faced some backlash for the state’s nursing home policy in response to the pandemic. with many Republicans saying it placed residents in more danger. Just last week, the Justice Department asked Gov. Whitmer for Michigan nursing home data linked to the coronavirus outbreak as part of an effort to find out if the state’s response warrants a federal investigation.

A new report by the Center for Health and Research Transformation says that Michigan’s plan to create “hubs” for nursing home residents with COVID-19 was “logical and appropriate,” and found no significant evidence of transmission of the virus between patients and residents.

Still, the governor’s office says that this week Whitmer is reviewing recommendations made by the state’s Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force and will implement any changes following her review.

The executive orders signed Saturday are extensions of previous executive orders Whitmer enacted at the beginning of the pandemic -- which were most recently extended on August 10 and were slated to expire on September 7.

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.