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Whitmer updates return-to-work guidelines, local businesses plan gradual return

Posted at 4:09 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 22:09:25-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan employers may now allow fully vaccinated employees to work without face coverings or social distancing.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduced updated guidance from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Monday, which also marked the first day workers in all industries in the state can return to their offices in person.


Comments by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on getting back to work

“The reason we can take these steps is thanks to every Michigander who has stepped up and taken action to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe,” Whitmer said at the press conference. “Together, we are eliminating this once-in-a-century virus, and now we are poised to jump start our economy and power it to new highs.”

Michigan has surpassed the first benchmark of 55 percent of all adult residents receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. Meeting this goal lifts the state’s requirement for employers to require remote work when possible.

Many employers say their employees will return gradually, continue working from home, or take a hybrid approach.

“I expect that most businesses who have not already returned to in-person work will take some period of time over the summer to ease back into things and try to find what the right new normal is,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Calley explained that many of the more than 28,000 small businesses in the organization have indicated that they will have conversations with their employees about how they would like to return to work. Employees of the Small Business Association of Michigan will have some choices.

“Obviously, we have to set up the organization in a way that helps us to be as effective as possible, but one of the factors that we take into consideration is the preferences of the team,” he said.

In some cases, the modifications businesses and nonprofits have had to adapt to during the pandemic have proven effective. Scott Duimstra who serves as the executive director of the Capital Area District Libraries says that things like virtual story time will stick around.

“For some of those online storytimes, you might have 50 to 100 people view it when it's live. And then also, since anyone can go back and view it at any other time, we had over two thousand views for those,” he said. “That’s not something we could replicate in our physical spaces.”

Library workers and administrative staff will gradually return to in-person duty. The libraries will be open to the public for in-person browsing on June 1.

However, Calley says that work in the post-pandemic era will still look different than before.

Comments by Brian Calley on the impact of COVID-19 on businesses

“I don't think there's any chance of returning things exactly how they were before that. Most businesses, in one way, shape or form have found ways to innovate and improve what they were doing before,” he said. “I think it will be the rare exception that you find a business out there that didn't change in a way that persevered past the length of the pandemic itself.”

State of Michigan employees are set to return to in-person duty on July 12 and broad COVID-19 restrictions are set to lift on July 1.

MIOSHA's Updated Workplace Rules

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has updated other aspects of the emergency rules to reflect the recent order from MDHHS and guidance from the CDC. Those changes include:

  • Employers may allow fully vaccinated employees to not wear face coverings and social distance, provided they have a policy deemed effective to ensure non-vaccinated individuals continue to follow these requirements.
  • The rules have been reformed focusing on performance, eliminating industry-specific requirements. Definitions have been updated to more clearly reflect changes in close contact and quarantining requirements for fully vaccinated employees.
  • Cleaning requirements have been updated to reflect changes in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
  • Employers should continue to have and implement a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan in accordance with the updated rules.

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Elle Meyers

Elle Meyers

6:12 PM, Apr 12, 2021

State Capitol

Neighborhood Reporter

Elle Meyers

FOX 47 News Neighborhood Newsletter