EAST LANSING, Mich. — A new East Lansing emergency health order went into effect Friday restricting outdoor gatherings in some parts of the city to 15 people or fewer.
The previous order, issued in October, limited outdoor gatherings to ten.
The new order is far more stringent than state restrictions, which limit gatherings at residential venues to 50 people and non-residential areas to 300.
The order does not include the entire city. The restricted area begins west of Harrison Road, goes along the northern edge of Michigan State University's campus and ends just east of Hagadorn Road. That area was identified based on the frequency of noise complaints from large house parties.
“COVID-19 cases are decreasing, but we are still seeing higher numbers in certain areas of East Lansing. With sports and Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations on the horizon, it is critical to keep social gatherings small,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail, who put the order into effect. “We are making excellent progress in fighting COVID-19 but do not want to take steps backward.”
East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens said, with the warmer weather approaching, they wanted to do something to ensure large gatherings won't happen.
"Just given the amount of cases we saw earlier in the fall, when we did see that warmer weather, those parties start to happen especially in this area,” Stephens said.
Tamara Brown, who lives in the city, said she understands why it has to be in place but feels bad for the students.
“I don’t think it’s really fair," Brown said. "Especially for students. Part of being in the school culture has to do with learning together and learning to work with different people.”
Stephens said the city is making decisions based on data.
“We’re responding in the moment rather than having a plan step by step, 'this is exactly how we’re going to open things,'" he said. "Because the truth is, while we might expect cases are going to trend down, if we do see an uptick then maybe restrictions increase.”
To get the outdoor gathering numbers closer to the state's restrictions, Stephens said, there's one important thing that needs to happen.
“I’d say the vaccinations need to really increase especially in that student population," he said.
In the restricted area, schools, childcare organizations, community centers, places of religious worship, farmers markets and parks are exempt from the emergency order, but statewide limits are still in force. Restaurants are classified differently than social gatherings and are not included in the emergency order.
Under a city of East Lansing ordinance, anyone who violates the order could alternatively or additionally receive a municipal civil infraction ticket, punishable by a fine of $500. Social gatherings that exceed public health order limits can be reported by calling the East Lansing Police Department’s non-emergency phone number: (517) 351-4220, Option 2.
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