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MDHHS Changes Gathering Limits for Public Meetings

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Laura Genovich and Cody Mott
Municipal Law e-blast
April 1, 2021

On March 31, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an amendment to its March 22, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order. The amendment, which is effective immediately, exempts public meetings from the 25 person limit. The meetings will instead be subject to the capacity limits of the venue.
In December 2020, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Public Act 254, which amended the Open Meetings Act. Public bodies were allowed to hold public meetings via telephone or electronically on a platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams for any reason through March 31, 2021. Beginning April 1, 2021, public meetings can only be held remotely if there is a state of emergency or state of disaster declared. If there is no state of emergency or state of disaster declared, public meetings can only be lawfully conducted in-person. Board members may attend electronically under specific circumstances, such as military duty or a medical condition.
The amendment excludes the public meeting from the 25-person capacity limit for indoor gatherings. Instead, the public meeting is limited to 50% of the occupancy limits established by the fire marshal. The number of permitted attendees may be lower due to social distancing requirements. All attendees (including board members) must remain six feet apart. If the venue cannot operate at 50% capacity and meet the social distancing requirements, then the maximum number of attendees is limited to the number of persons that can fit while remaining distanced. Face coverings must be worn at all times.
If the number of attendees is greater than the capacity limitation, the public body must either move the meeting outside (where the gathering limit is 1,000 persons or fewer), or end the meeting. The Open Meetings Act prohibits turning away any person from an in-person meeting.
If you have any questions regarding this communication or the MDHHS order, please contact your Foster Swift attorney or a member of our Municipal Practice Group.