Ingham County issues emergency orders to maintain ‘COVID-19 protections’ following Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling

Violation of emergency orders constitutes misdemeanor

FILE - In this June 23, 2020, file photo, a woman walks out of a liquor store past a sign requesting its customers to wear a mask in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Jae C. Hong, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – New emergency orders issued Sunday will require Ingham County residents to continue following coronavirus safety requirements, regardless of the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling on Gov. Whitmer’s emergency powers.

Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail issued four new emergency orders on Sunday to “keep several COVID-19 protections in place” just after the state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Whitmer’s orders.

Under the new orders, Ingham County residents are still required to wear face coverings, indoor and outdoor gathering sizes are still limited, restaurants must continue to operate at a 50% (or 125 person) capacity limit and businesses must continue to carry out employee health screenings.

The requirements listed under the new orders have already been mandated in Ingham County, but officials said Sunday that local emergency orders were specifically issued to “remove uncertainty around the continuation of precautionary measures for Ingham County residents and businesses” following the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Protecting Ingham County residents is a responsibility that I take very seriously. With a recent surge in cases in Ingham County, now is not the appropriate time to relax precautions," Vail said in a press release Sunday.

“Health and science experts agree that facial coverings, social distancing and health screenings are critical to controlling the virus. We have made too much progress to regress. We are working hard to get our young people back to school, keep our businesses and government open, and make progress in our economic recovery," Vail added.

Ingham County’s four new emergency orders can be viewed at the following links: Ingham2020-21, Ingham2020-22, Ingham2020-23, Ingham2020-24. A violation of any of the orders constitutes a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum $200 fine, up to 6 months of imprisonment or both.

Data shows that Ingham County and the surrounding region are currently at the highest risk for coronavirus spread in Michigan.

According to the MI Safe Start Map, the Lansing region is labeled as risk level "E" -- the state’s highest level of risk for COVID-19 spread. The region is currently reporting 67.5 new COVID-19 cases per million residents every day, according to the state.

The Ingham County Health Department said Sunday that Vail has the authority to issue the orders under Michigan Law MCL 333.2453. The statute states, “if a local health officer determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the local health officer may issue an emergency order to prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed by persons ... during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws.”

In a similar fashion, the Oakland County Health Department issued a similar emergency order on Saturday requiring residents to wear face masks in public places amid uncertainty over statewide emergency orders.

The Michigan Supreme Court decided Friday that a law from 1945 is unconstitutional, impacting months of orders made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under that law.

Since the end of April, Whitmer has extended the state’s emergency status and issued a number of related orders under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. According to the court, those orders are no longer enforceable.

Whitmer says her existing orders will remain in effect for at least 21 days, but some are arguing that Whitmer has no legal basis to continue enforcing emergency orders following the court’s decision.


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.