08-06-2020 Governor tightens COVID rules for northern counties, orders farmworkers tested, and vetoe

KEEPING IN SHAPE… These ladies are part of a group called the Walkie-Talkies from Coloma and Watervliet, ages ranging from mid-60s to 80-plus, serious about keeping in shape during COVID-19 restrictions. The group walks 7 days a week in various neighborhoods. They wear masks and maintain a distance; some days there may be six walking together, and some days as many as 16. They say they have encountered wonderful folks along the way and appreciate the drivers who slow down when passing by and waving.

Governor tightens COVID rules for northern counties, orders farmworkers tested, and vetoes rest home bill

By Jon Bisnett Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order is pressuring state police, licensing agencies and state departments to aid with enforcement of coronavirus restrictions. Whitmer, in an executive directive issued on Tuesday morning, ordered the Michigan State Police to enforce COVID-19 executive orders like they would other violations of law and called on state departments to prioritize enforcement as well. Michigan’s Department of Agriculture will be required to consider closing operations at facilities where a hazard related to COVID-19 is identified. State departments and agencies made aware of violations must also refer violations to the licensing agencies with domain over the business. Nursing home veto Characterizing the bill as “nothing more than a political game”, Governor Whitmer vetoed a bi-partisan bill aimed at protecting Michigan’s senior citizens. The vetoed bill, Senate Bill 956, would ban nursing homes from admitting or retaining anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 until after they have recovered – unless they can house those patients in a separate building. Screws tightened in north counties Yet another executive order from the pen of Governor Gretchen Whitmer will now impose uniform restrictions on indoor social gatherings and bars across the state, tightening rules that had previously been eased in northern zones. Under rules now made statewide, bars that derive at least 70 percent of their sales from alcohol are prohibited from serving customers indoors. And indoor events may not exceed 10 people. The prior order had allowed bar service and indoor gatherings of up to 50 people in the 32 counties of northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Whitmer’s order also allowed Detroit’s three non-tribal casinos to reopen at 15 percent capacity beginning on Aug. 5. Sources report some 2,500 casino workers have been furloughed since March at Motor City Casino alone, while tribal casinos around the state have since reopened more than a month ago with self-imposed limited capacity and COVID policy best practices in place. Farmworker tests ordered Under an emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, officials have issued new emergency orders requiring COVID-19 testing for Michigan agricultural and food processing employees. A spokesperson said department officials were not aware of any other states requiring such universal testing of agricultural and migrant workers. The MDHHS cited 11 specific outbreaks at sites in Michigan including both farms and food processing facilities. The order requires migrant housing camp operators to provide: One-time baseline testing of all residents ages 18 and over; testing of all new residents within 48 hours of arrival, with separate housing for newly arriving residents for 14 days and a second test 10–14 days after arrival; testing of any resident with symptoms or exposure. Employers of migrant or seasonal workers, meat, poultry and egg processing facilities and greenhouses with more than 20 employees on site at a time must also provide: One-time baseline testing of all workers; testing of all new workers prior to any in-person work; testing of any worker with symptoms or exposure. Employers and housing operators must complete a testing plan by Aug. 10. Completion of baseline testing and implementation of ongoing testing are required no later than Aug. 24. Grants are available to help mitigate testing costs.

Federal COVID relief In Washington, D.C., the new round of COVID support is in the negotiation stage on Capitol Hill and may include direct payments, unemployment support and a rollback in payroll taxes. COVID Liability Protection for small-business is also a point of debate. The latest GOP plan Monday entails $1,200 individual payments, $200 unemployment supplement, and billions for schools with some of the money aimed at helping classrooms reopen for students. The proposed legislation also proposes additional funding for the small-business Paycheck Protection Program. Congress