Detroit Gatherings Under Open Meetings Act To Go Virtual

DETROIT (AP) — Local governmental gatherings in Detroit that fall under the Open Meetings Act must be held virtually under a public health order aimed at preventing the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The order was issued Tuesday by Detroit Chief Health Officer Denise Fair and declares a local state of emergency through May 31.

It follows an increase in COVID-19 cases and variants of the virus in the city and across Michigan.

Some meetings subject to the Open Meetings Act will find it difficult, if not impossible, to be open to the public without violating safety guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fair said in a news release.

Wayne County, in which Detroit is the county seat, issued a similar order Monday.

“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 said.

She cited public bodies without facilities that allow for adequate physical distancing or those with open attendance in an in-person setting like the Detroit City Council and Board of Police Commissioners.

Virus cases in Detroit have risen from just over 300 for the period between Feb. 7-13 to more than 800 between March 14-20, according to the city.

Detroit has had more than 33,800 confirmed virus cases and about 1,870 deaths since the start of the pandemic. More than 665,900 cases and over 16,000 deaths have been reported across the state.

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 5,177 new COVID cases and 48 additional deaths.

Efforts early last spring by Detroit leaders urging residents to follow COVID-19 safety protocols like mask wearing and social distancing, and free mass testing have been credited with helping reduce the number of cases and deaths in the city over the past year.