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Whitmer extends COVID-19 workplace measures for six more months

Requirements include allowing workers who can fulfill their duties remotely to work from home
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a press conference on COVID-19.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a press conference on COVID-19.(source: State of Michigan)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 1:03 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A series of COVID-19 measures for workplaces that were scheduled to end this week instead will be extended for six more months.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided to extend the measures due to Michigan’s ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which currently is worst in the country.

The measures include a requirement for employers to allow workers to stay home if they can carry out their responsibilities remotely outside the workplace. Various other rules impose requirements on manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, fitness and hospitality businesses.

During a tour of a COVID-19 vaccination site at Eastern Michigan University, Whitmer said extending the measures will provide more tools for the state to transition workers back into their workplaces safely while mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

Many of the COVID-19 requirements for workplaces were established last spring with order from Whitmer. After the Michigan Supreme Court threw out the law she used to make the orders, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration brought them back as emergency work rules.

The MIOSHA emergency rules were set to expire Wednesday, but state laws allow for one six-month extension. After that, MIOSHA would have to complete a formal state process for instituting workplace measures to continue any of the orders specific to COVID-19.

MIOSHA appointed the Return-to-Office Workgroup in March, which is tasked with developing protocols for fully reopening offices safely with a phased approach and recommending long-term COVID-19 prevention practices.

Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have declined to impose more restrictions during the current surge in COVID-19, which is a contrast to the spikes in the illness last year. Instead, they are relying on personal responsibility for people to follow orders already in place.

Last week, Whitmer made voluntary requests for all high schools to close in-person learning for two weeks, youth sports to pause for two weeks and diners to opt for outdoor seating or takeout service instead of eating in restaurant dining rooms. However, high schools, sports and indoor dining are allowed to remain open.

High schools and athletic programs around Mid-Michigan are mixed on whether they will follow the advice.

Restaurants panned the advice against indoor dining as misguided, pointing to a relatively low number of outbreaks tied eating out.

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