AG Nessel Answers More Questions Related to COVID-19 and Governor Whitmer's Executive Orders

Hi, this is Michigan Attorney GeneralDana Nessel.

I'm back to answer more of your questions related to the coronavirus and the Executive Orders that the Governor has issued to help protect you, your family and your community from the spread of COVID-19.

Now these questionswere pulled directly from your emails and posts to our social media pages andwe'll be doing these videos regularly so please continue to post your questionson the Michigan Department of Attorney General social media pages or byemailing our office.

So let's get started.

Question number one, should an employer notify co-workers that someone they work with has tested positive for COVID-19? Yes, the Center for Disease Control says that employers must notify co-workerswhen someone has tested positive for COVID-19.

Now because of privacy laws though special care should always be taken soany notice doesn't disclose the identity of the individual who's tested positive.

Question number two, can an employer send an employee home from work if theydisplay symptoms associated with the COVID-19? Yes, an employer can tellsomeone not to come into work and can send someone home from work if theydisplay symptoms associated with COVID-19 like a fever, or coughing or shortness of breath.

Question number three, can a Health Department disclose that someone in a home has tested positive for COVID-19 to help first responders so that they can take protective measures to help keep themselves safe? Well the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, federal law that's much more commonly known as HIPAA, generally prevents the disclosure of certainprotected health information.

However, protecting the health and safetyof our first responders like our police officers, firefighters and paramedics isincredibly important, and it's why the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows certain covered entities like the Health Department to disclose information about individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 under certain limited circumstances like the one in your question.

Here, HIPPA would allowinformation about a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to beshared with central dispatch and then communicated to first responderswhenever those first responders may be at risk of a COVID-19 infection, or whena first responder can reasonably prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threatto health or safety.

When sharing this information though, reasonable effortsshould be made to limit the information disclosed to the minimum necessary toaccomplish the purpose of that disclosure.

Now that can be achieved by only sharing the information with the first responders who arehandling the call for assistance Question number four, “Hi I would like toknow what is being done to protect MDOC inmates? They are humans too and haveloved ones that are very concerned.

” Well, thank you for that important question.

Now I can tell you that we've been on several calls with both the Governor'soffice and MDOC's Director Heidi Washington and her staff about themeasures that are being taken to protect inmates in the custody of the Departmentof Corrections, as well as the corrections staff who work at MDOCfacilities from COVID-19.

Now as you can imagine protecting individuals who arein a correctional facility from COVID-19 presents unique challenges.

I can tellyou though, that Director Washington has been very aggressive in addressing thesechallenges and has already put in place several measures to help keep people safe.

First, the Director immediately implemented a screening protocol to helpkeep out of the prison anyone who is sick or could be sick withCOVID-19.

Now this protocol includes screening of all MDOC employees forCOVID-19 symptoms and requiring temperature checks before they can gointo work.

MDOC has also implemented aggressive cleaning measures withinfacilities to help reduce risk associated with the spread of COVID-19.

Because COVID-19 is transmitted through close personal contact theDepartment has also reduced the number of inmates that can be together ingatherings.

For example, by limiting the number of inmates that can go to eat orat a class at the same time.

In order to be as proactive as possiblethe Director has also created three makeshift hospitals to specifically carefor any inmates who may test positive for COVID-19.

And those medicalfacilities are already operating.

MDOC staff is also looking at everyone who iswithin the jurisdiction of the parole board to determine who can be released.

These decisions are made on a rolling basis so that anyone who can be releasedsafely to the public is released just as soon as a decision is made.

The director has stopped all internal transfers between prisons, and she's doing that tohelp reduce the possibility of exposure by introducing people who may have beenexposed to COVID-19 into a new prison population.

And just yesterday, theGovernor signed Executive Order 2020-29 temporarily suspending all transfersinto the MDOC.

And these steps were important to helpreduce the possibility of exposure by introducing people who may have beenexposed to COVID-19 into a new prison population.

Now those are just some ofthe things Director Washington has done and she is constantly reviewing whatelse can be done to reduce the risk to inmates and her staff every single day.

Question 5, can we please reopen golf courses? We can play golf while practicing social distancing.

Well, we've gotten this question a lot, like a whole lot, and obviously many of you are concerned about the impact COVID-19 may have on your golf handicap, and if your game is anything like mine this temporary break won't really mattermuch.

You'll still be terrible at golf when you get back onto the greens.

The issue with a golf course remaining open to the public though is not whethergolfers can maintain a safe social distance while golfingand playing, the problem with a golf course remaining open is that employeesof the course are not critical infrastructure workers under theGovernor's Executive Order and that means they cannot go to work on site todo all the things that go along with you playing golf.

Like cleaning the bathroomsthat you use, taking your money when you play, or wiping down carts that you drive.

At it's core, social distancing is really about recognizing that we impactthe health of all of those around us so when businesses are asked to reduce orto suspend their on-site operations it's because those businesses being opencreates a risk to the public's health.

Now you might be willing to take thatrisk but it's not fair to ask others to take that same risk for you.

Until theGovernor's Order ends please stick to practicing on the putting greens in yourhouse rather than one's on the course.

You'll protect the public and no one butthe members of your family will know how really bad at golf you are.

Question number six, who should we report people ignoring the Order to? Don't want to waste anyone's time but also want these jerks to stayhome also forget fines can the punishment be a face tattoo? Well firstthank you for doing your part to help figure out creative ways to drive homethe seriousness of the Governor's Stay Home, Stay Safe Order.

Tattoo parlorsthough should be closed under the Governor's Executive Order right now andwe don't recommend do-it-yourself tattooing.

So instead, I'll just tell youthat you should report violations of the Stay Home, Stay Safe Order to your locallaw enforcement agency.

The non-emergency number, not 9-1-1 please.

Unfortunately mystaff can't get to every corner of the state, we've asked our local lawenforcement partners to help us enforce the order.

Question number seven, amechanic for a trucking company was stopped on his way to work and policeallegedly demanded a letter proving he was essential.

Does the employer have toprovide employees with letters and if so can you provide samples? I amasking from curiosity, not on behalf of my employer.

Well here's the answer, critical infrastructure workers like the one in your exampledo not, let me repeat that, do not have to carry a letter proving that they havebeen designated by their employer as essential.

Some employers may beproviding letters to their employees out of an abundance of caution, but it is notrequired under the Governor's Order.

Question number 8, can a family memberlook in wave and blow kisses back and forth through the window of the room oftheir loved one if they are a resident in a nursing home? I know a family thatwas doing this this past Thursday in Okemos and they were rudely chased away.

Well, waving and blowing kisses through a window is perfectly fine.

Please make sure you're at the right window though or you'll have some explaining to do to your friends and family when you get home.

Question number nine, why arebig-box retailers allowed to stay open? Well, we've received a lot of questionsabout big-box stores and whether they're allowed to be open now.

First, whether aretailer can continue to have on-site operations depends on what exactly thatbusiness does, not whether it's big or small.

For example, hardware stores can remain open because they supply goods necessaryfor the construction of public infrastructure.

Projects that arenecessary to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation and essentialoperations of residents and protects that support and projects that support critical infrastructure workers.

So craft and Hobby Lobby types of stores on the otherhand should not be open to the public right now.

The provision of items usedfor crafts or hobbies are not considered necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and basic operation of residences under the Order.

Importantlyfor retailers that are allowed to be open in the public right now, you muststill implement social distancing practices and other mitigation measuresto help protect your employees and customers.

So for example, under the Governor'sOrder you should restrict the number of workers present on the premises to nomore than what is strictly necessary to perform the critical infrastructurefunctions.

You should encourage your employees to work remotely as much aspossible.

You should keep workers and customers who are on the premises atleast 6 feet from one another to the maximum extent possible, including whencustomers are standing in line.

You should increase standards for facilitycleaning, you should adopt policies to prevent workers from entering thepremises if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with aperson known to have COVID-19.

Now taking these additional steps will help protectyour employees as well as members of the public that enter your store.

So please check out www.

mi.

gov/coronavirus for more helpful information and resources about things we can all do to help stop thespread of COVID-19.

And remember to go back and check the page frequently sinceit's constantly being updated with new information.

Now I want to talk about onelast thing today, when we discuss the importance of following the Governor'sOrders.

So this is my friend and colleague, Isaac Robinson.

Isaac has beena longtime community activist in the Detroit area and was elected torepresent the 4th District for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2018.

I spoke at his swearing-in ceremony.

Isaac died yesterday of COVID-19, hewas 44 years old.

His heart was as big as his physique; look you can't even see usin the same picture here because he was so much taller than me.

No one caredabout their community and no one worked harder to serve their district thanIsaac.

He was one of the most selfless people I have ever met and now because ofthis virus there are people all over the state that won't get the services they need and deserve because they won't have Isaac to fight for them anymore.

So ifyou think this virus is a joke, if you think the Governor's Orders can bescoffed at and don't really matter, if you think this can't happen to you orthe people you love, or you might give the virus too, let me tell you something you are wrong, you are dead wrong.

And by the time this is over eachand every one of us will have lost someone we love, somebody like Isaac, butif we are diligent and if we don't follow these important orders it will befar more than just one person and it could be you.

So goodbye Isaac.

I hope that you are busy organizing some sort of protest inheaven right now, I'm not sure what there is to protest, but I'm sure you'll find something.

We love you man.

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