EAST LANSING, Mich. – No more than 15 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 (Ingham2021-1), which goes into effect March 5, replaces a previous emergency order issued in October. That order limited outdoor gathering sizes in the area to ten people.
The change reflects the easing of restrictions statewide including the Gatherings and Face Mask Order. The emergency order remains in place indefinitely to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 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 decreasing, but we are still seeing higher numbers in certain areas of East Lansing. With sports and Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations on the horizon, it is critical to keep social gatherings small,” said Vail. “We are making excellent progress in fighting COVID-19 but do not want to take steps backward.”
The restricted area has a high concentration of college students and rental properties. People ages 20-29 years old account for 30 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Ingham County since the pandemic began. The department’s 30-day heat map indicates that the restricted area has had the highest concentration of new COVID-19 cases over the last month.
“For the time being, we must remain vigilant when it comes to COVID-19 safety measures,” said East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens. “This order is an important tool in continuing to limit social gathering sizes in an area of our community where we have historically seen large parties, and it’s especially important to have these limits in place with the weather warming up and events like Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner.”
Outdoor gathering sizes are restricted to 50 people or less statewide under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) Gatherings and Face Mask Order. The MDHHS order currently restricts indoor gatherings to no more than 15 people from no more than three households.
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 statewide limits. 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 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 by calling the East Lansing Police Department’s non-emergency phone number: (517) 351-4220, Option 2.