As some states return to business as usual while the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more manageable, Michigan is likely to keep strict safety measures in place for a while longer.
One of those measures is a ban on working in person, first issued by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Administration (MIOSHA) in October, after the state Supreme Court struck down several orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). That order is set to expire in mid-April, but that does not mean Michiganders will be able to return to work.
“Jason Moon, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, which includes MIOSHA, said it is ‘very likely’ the regulations will be extended while the agency writes permanent rules to supersede them,” according to a FOX17 report.
Whitmer did, however, form “a workgroup to assess and make recommendations for a phased return to office work” this week.
Local business groups and leaders, including Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Baker, are ready to allow their employees to return to work, and asked the governor to let them do just that. Baker said he hoped Whitmer’s phased plan to return to office work was “authentic.”
According to FOX17 those groups have formed a coalition called Reopen Michigan Safely, which is urging MIOSHA to let safety measures enacted by the government agency expire on April 14.
“Work, by its nature, removes people from the confines and relative safety of their homes to interact with others who may be carrying the virus including coworkers, customers, patients, or the public at large,” that order says. “Employees who come into contact with others at work are at elevated risk of infection.”
That order forces businesses to categorize jobs within their organizations from “low exposure risk” to “very high exposure risk,” and demands that they “evaluate routine and reasonably anticipated tasks and procedures to determine whether there is actual or reasonably anticipated employee exposure to” COVID-19.
It also requires businesses to have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan that is consistent with current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding the virus.
The state has fined more than 125 employers for breaking these guidelines, FOX17 reported.
“There are many, many things that can be done productively virtually. There are frankly many things that frankly cannot be done productively virtually,” Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect reportedly said. “What we’re asking for here is — let our businesses and their employees work together on what the right approach is in each community and for each business.”
Michigan and Whitmer are infamous for some of the strictest COVID-19 lockdown measures in America, which at one point barred residents from gathering in private residences. That order was eventually deemed unconstitutional.
More recently, Whitmer has come under fire for her nursing home policy during COVID-19, similarly to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is currently fending off a scandal after nursing home deaths in that state were significantly underreported.
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