COVID-19 Updates

4-30-21

Changes To Executive Orders, Vaccination, and Employer Policies

Dear friends,

The Governor recently unveiled a plan developed in consultation with Michigan’s Legislature regarding the changing COVID-19 landscape.

Currently, about half of Michiganders have received at least one vaccine. Here are the details of the plan:

55 percent of Michiganders vaccinated (4.5 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Allows in-person work for all sectors of business.

60 percent of Michiganders (4.8 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25 percent
  • Increases indoor capacity at conference centers, banquet halls, and funeral homes to 25 percent
  • Increases capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50 percent
  • Lifts the curfew on restaurants and bars

65 percent of Michiganders (5.3 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts all indoor dining capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties.
  • Further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings

70 percent of Michiganders (5.7 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants

What does this mean for our churches? Well, as you know, religious worship has been exempt in Michigan since the start of the pandemic. However, the capacity restrictions may be in place for other church-sponsored activities such as social events. The Governor’s statement indicates these restrictions may soon be lifted.

The earliest change would be to returning to in-person work. The current MIOSHA guidelines do not allow an employer to mandate that an employee come into the office unless the work cannot “feasibly” be completed at home. The Governor indicated that all sectors will be “allowed” to return to in person work two weeks after 55% of the population has been vaccinated. It is somewhat ambiguous whether an employee can be mandated to return to the office at that time, but in the absence of additional information or guidance, I would say that an employer can probably require the employee to come in unless the employee presents evidence of a disability requiring reasonable accommodation.

Can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated? The short answer is yes, unless the employee has a religious or disability reason for choosing not to be vaccinated, in which case the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for that employee. However, most governmental and human resources authorities indicate that the “carrot” is better than the “stick” approach in this regard. That is, providing employees with additional paid time off for getting the vaccines and offering an additional incentive, such as a gift card to a pharmacy, when the employee presents evidence of being fully vaccinated, is the more effective strategy. I have provided a sample vaccination policy for Sessions based on a policy adopted by the City of Milwaukee.

When do we think 55% of Michiganders will be vaccinated? Well, first off, based on the Governor’s statement, it will be based on 55% of adults over 16 receiving the first dose. The delivery trend for vaccines from the state’s website indicates that we are currently averaging somewhere between 500k and 1m doses per week. About half of those are second doses, so for new vaccinations, that’s 250k-500k new doses per week.

On the one hand, people may be incentivized to get vaccines based on this new guidance. On the other hand, the most vaccine-compliant individuals have already been vaccinated, and the remaining populations are vaccine-hesitant, vaccine-resistant, or have other difficulties that are causing them not to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Therefore, if we use 333k/week as an estimate, with 1m people getting vaccinated every three weeks, we will hit 4.4 million or 55% in about 1-2 weeks, meaning in person work can resume in 3-4 weeks or about June 1. Using that same rate, it will take three and a half more weeks to get to 5.6 million or 70%. That means by about July 1 mask mandates and capacity restrictions will be lifted.

Good news to be sure for our churches. Life will certainly never be the same now that COVID-19 is among us. However, we can rejoice and give thanks that we will soon be able to be together with our siblings in Christ.

Grace and peace,

Marianne Grano, Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Detroit

SIGNATURE INDICATING RECEIPT OF POLICY

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