Whitmer OKs movie theater reopenings, strengthens mask requirements in schools

    The State Theatre in Ann Arbor | Susan J. Demas

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday signed executive orders that reopen movie theaters and performance venues, require face coverings for students in grades K-5 and align workplace safeguards with other directives. 

    “Michigan took some of the most aggressive action against COVID-19 in the country, and as a result, the health of our families and our economy are faring better than our neighbors in other states,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As a result, we are now able to reopen movie theaters and performance venues with strict safety measures in place. I know these business owners have made incredible sacrifices during this crisis to protect our families and frontline workers, and my administration will continue working to help them get back on their feet.” 

    Beginning Oct. 9, indoor theaters, cinemas, performance venues, arcades, bingo halls, bowling centers, indoor climbing facilities, trampoline parks, and more may reopen. 

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    Under Executive Order 2020-183, non-residential indoor gatherings and events now must limit attendance to 20 people per 1,000 square feet or 20% of fixed seating capacity, with a maximum of 500 people in Michigan’s largest venues. Prior to the order, they were limited to 10 people. Non-residential indoor venues must require a face covering. 

    Non-residential outdoor gatherings and events now must limit attendance to 30 people per 1,000 square feet or 30% of fixed seating capacity, with a maximum of 1,000 people. Prior to the order, they were limited to 100 people.

    Regions 6 and 8 (Traverse City area and Upper Peninsula) are subject to the same rules covered in Whitmer’s revised “MI Safe Start” order, except non-residential indoor venues may allow up to 25 people per 1,000 square feet or 25% of fixed seating capacity, with a maximum of 500 people in the regions’ largest venues. 

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    Executive Order 2020-185 requires all students in grades kindergarten and up in regions 1 through 5 and 7 (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Lansing and Jackson areas) to wear a face covering in classrooms. Previous orders had recommended, but not required, a face covering for grades kindergarten through five.  

    “With the 2020-2021 flu season approaching, we are in a precarious moment in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and Department of Health and Human Services chief deputy for health. “This new mask requirement is so important to protect students and educators, and to keep our schools open. This year, it’s more important than ever that Michiganders across the state get their flu vaccine as soon as possible, mask up, and maintain at least six feet of physical distancing. Let’s all be smart and stay safe.” 

    Whitmer also signed Executive Order 2020-184, which updates the governor’s previous order on workplace safeguards to reflect the changes in the MI Safe Start Order.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.