Foster Swift Municipal Law News E-blast
March 2, 2021
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), in coordination with Governor Whitmer, issued an updated Gatherings and Face Mask Order earlier today that allows for indoor meetings of 25 persons or fewer. The order, which does not take effect until March 5, 2021, loosens capacity restrictions for a variety of activities, including for indoor, in-person meetings. As a result, public bodies are once again allowed to conduct public meetings in-person under certain guidelines.
In-Person Gatherings and Public Meetings
Under today’s order, indoor gatherings at non-residential venues are permissible so long as there are no more than 25 persons gathered. There is no limitation on the number of households gathered. Previous orders restricted gatherings to no more than 10 persons from no more than 2 households. The public body should still take steps to ensure that persons are wearing face coverings and that persons not part of the same household maintain six feet of distance from one another to the extent possible.
For meetings where the expected attendance at any given time is less than 25 persons (including the public officials), the public body may meet indoors. Meetings where more than 25 attendees are expected, such as at the Board of Review, attendees may still meet in-person if there are no more than 25 persons present at any given time.
If more than 25 persons are expected to be in attendance at any given time, it is advisable that the meeting either (i) be held outdoors where gathering limits are increased to 300 persons, or (ii) be held virtually or with a virtual option, subject to the conditions below.
Virtual or Electronic Public Meetings
While the order lifts capacity requirements, it does not require public bodies to meet in person. Public meetings may continue to be held virtually utilizing an electronic platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The platform must allow for two-way communications between members of the public and members of the public body. Be sure to properly notice meetings, including publishing the notice on the public body’s website at least 18 hours before it is scheduled to be held. Include in the notice the reason for why the public body is meeting electronically; how members of the public, including persons with disabilities, are able to participate; and how the members of the public body may contact members of the public body to give input or ask questions.
Please contact your Foster Swift attorney or a member of our Municipal Practice Group for more information on how to properly notice and conduct a virtual meeting or for any other questions related to the MDHHS order.