EAST LANSING, Mich. – No more than ten people may gather outdoors in parts of East Lansing, including the downtown area, per an emergency order issued today by Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. The order (Ingham2020-25), effective immediately and remaining in place indefinitely, was issued to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The area was previously restricted to 25 people under an emergency order issued by Vail in August. Now capped at ten people, the restricted area stretches from the northern edge of the Michigan State University campus to Burcham Drive and is bounded by Harrison Road to the west and Hagadorn Road to the east, including properties adjacent to those streets. County and city officials identified the area based on the frequency of noise ordinance violations historically occurring in the area due to large house parties.
“COVID-19 cases are growing rapidly in many parts of the state, and large social gatherings are a driving force,” said Vail. “By further reducing the size of gatherings in this section of East Lansing, we may prevent local outbreaks associated with Halloween and football-related gatherings. Based upon observations and citations issued under the previous emergency order, stricter gathering controls are necessary.”
The restricted area has a high concentration of college students and rental properties. People ages 20-29 years old account for 40 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Ingham County since the pandemic began.
“While most MSU students are doing the right thing and cheering on the Spartans in a safe manner, we are still seeing far too many large off-campus gatherings without masks and physical distancing,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “We don’t want to see large outbreaks of COVID-19 in our community and county as a result of Halloween and Spartan football celebrations.”
Outdoor gathering sizes are restricted to 100 people or less in the region under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order. The MDHHS order restricts indoor gatherings to no more than ten people.
Schools, childcare organizations, community centers, places of religious worship, farmers markets, and parks within the restricted area are exempt from the emergency order, but must continue to comply with the 100-person outdoor limit. All gatherings, indoors and out, must be designed to ensure that people from different households maintain a social distance of at least six feet. Restaurants are classified differently than social gatherings and are not included in the emergency order.
State law provides Vail with the authority to issue orders to protect the public health under Section 2453 of the Public Health Code (MCL 333.2453). Those who disregard the order could be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months and/or a fine of up to $200 through the county. Under a new City of East Lansing ordinance, any person 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 anonymously by calling the East Lansing Police Department’s non-emergency phone number: (517) 351-4220, Option 2.