City of Detroit issues Public Health Order to keep Open Meetings Act Virtual to reduce risk of virus spread

Detroit Chief Public Health Officer issues order, declares local state of emergency through May 31, 2021, as COVID cases and B.1.1.7. variant rise sharply in Detroit and statewide

DETROIT, March 30, 2021 — In the wake of a startling rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city, Detroit's Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair has issued an emergency public health order aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. The order, which was issued today following a similar order issued Monday by the Wayne County Health Officer, states that until at least May 31st, government body meetings that fall under the Open Meetings Act must be conducted virtually to prevent the risk of spread.

The order states that COVID-19 remains an ‘imminent threat to the public in the city of Detroit,’ citing the following data: 

  • COVID-19 cases in Detroit have increased from 302 for the period 2/7/2021-2/13/2021, to 804 cases for the period of 3/14/2021-3/20/2021, which represents a 166% increase in the number of cases reported in a span of six weeks.
  • The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has also been increasing, rising from 3.2% for the period of 2/7/2021-2/13/2021, to 7.0% for the period of 3/14/2021-3/20/2021. In the period 3/9/2021- 3/16/2021, the state of Michigan had the highest rate of increase in COVID-19 cases in the nation, with cases rising 53.3%. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Michigan is second in the nation in the number of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant at this time

“A number of public bodies in Detroit that are subject to the Open Meetings Act will find it difficult, if not impossible, to conduct their meetings in live meetings open to the public without violating CDC safety guidelines, so we needed to act now,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. “We recognize the importance of conducting open and transparent government meetings but we need to do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the public's health and safety.”

Fair cited examples of public bodies that do not have facilities that will allow for adequate physical distancing or open attendance in an in-person setting include the Detroit City Council and the Board of Police Commissioners. She added the emergency order could be rescinded prior to May 31st by a subsequent order if case rates begin trending down.

A copy of the Order can be found here.