On Sunday, October 4, 2020 I wrote an article explaining that despite the fact that the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion invalidating the majority of the Governor’s Executive Orders, not a lot was likely to change as to the regulations for Michigan businesses, public gatherings, and mask wearing. At the time it was only speculative; however, that speculation is now a reality. On October 5, 2020, Robert Gordon, Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, promulgated Emergency Order Under MCL 333.2253 – Gathering Prohibition and Mask Order.
This Order limits indoor and outdoor gatherings, mandates the wearing of masks, and places similar restrictions to Michigan restaurants and organized sports as did the Governor’s Executive Orders. The Order takes place immediately and currently lasts through October 30, 2020. It derives its authority from the Public Health Code, Act 368 of 1978; specifically, MCL 333.2253, which reads:
333.2253 Epidemic; emergency order and procedures; avian influenza; conditions requiring assistance of department of agriculture.
(1) If the director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.
(2) If an epidemic described in subsection (1) involves avian influenza or another virus or disease that is or may be spread by contact with animals, the department of agriculture shall cooperate with and assist the director in the director’s response to the epidemic.
(3) Upon request from the director, the department of agriculture shall assist the department in any review or update of the department’s pandemic influenza plan under section 5112.
Violation the Order is a criminal misdemeanor pursuant to MCL 333.2261, which reads:
333.2261 Violation as misdemeanor; penalty.
Except as otherwise provided by this code, a person who violates a rule or order of the department is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or a fine of not more than $200.00, or both.
So yes, it is a crime to violate this Order, which follows the same spirit as the Governor’s Executive Orders. Not only that, but you could face fines of up to $1,000 as well. You can read more on that, here. Only time will tell if this statute will receive the same scrutiny as did the one struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court. What is clear, at least for now, is that these restrictions are here to stay.
Daniel Barnett is an associate attorney with Grewal Law PLLC. His practice areas include commercial litigation, general civil litigation, family law, criminal law, and, personal injury.