Michigan drops COVID-19 safety restrictions in most workplaces
Michigan’s rollback of COVID-19 restrictions reached the workplace on Tuesday, as state officials updated safety rules to give many employers a choice in whether to continue pandemic-related health guidelines.
Effective today, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted regulations that follow federal guidelines and only affect health care employers.
That leaves the rest of the state’s employers free to choose whether they’ll continue with daily health screenings, masks and social distancing requirements, among other measures that had been enforceable rules during most of the pandemic.
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The decision was announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the same day that COVID-related restrictions — including limitations on indoor capacity for places like events venues and restaurants — ended across the state.
“As we continue to get Michigan back to work, our priority remains keeping workplaces safe for employees and protecting customers as they support these businesses,” said Whitmer in a statement.
“With our state at full capacity, we can … ensure businesses can emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever while keeping their workers safe.”
Many of the state’s business advocates wanted officials to change workplace orders in May, when businesses and their employees still had to operate within the state’s pandemic regulations set months earlier. The rules required masks, social distancing, health screenings despite the easing of the general public’s restrictions, including the end of the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people that took effect May 14.
By May 24, the state announced some changes for workplaces, adding flexibility for vaccinated workers and ending a push to make the heightened safety rules permanent.
However, at that time, the state also left in place until October some pandemic requirements that changed day-to-day business practices, including a requirement for non-vaccinated workers to continue social distancing and a rule that employers maintain a written COVID-19 preparedness plan.
Those rules are now over. In health care settings, though, federal guidance on masks, disinfection and other measures remain in place due to higher likelihood of people carrying or being exposed to the virus.
Despite the lifting of rules, the state still encourages workplaces to follow the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to observe recent recommendations from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for non-health care settings, according to the state.
“It’s important that all employers recognize that they have a general duty to provide a safe workplace,” Michigan COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan said in a statement.
Since the pandemic began, MIOSHA received over 15,000 complaints from employees who said there were uncontrolled COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. At different points in the pandemic, outbreaks have raged in nursing homes, prisons, manufacturing facilities and other workplaces.
Employers have reported 61 workplace deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and 173 hospitalizations that may be related to workplace exposure.
Statewide, 60.8 percent of Michigan adults are vaccinated and cases have dropped dramatically in recent weeks.
The state reported 327 cases on Monday over the past three days, the fewest-ever reported over three days since April 2020. Just over 1 percent of more than 41,000 tests came back positive, the lowest since the pandemic began.
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