Gov. Whitmer Clarifies Definition of COVID-19 symptoms, Contact in New Executive Order

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Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-166 that reinstates protections for employees in the State of Michigan.  Under the Order, the governor prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining, or retaliating against employees who make the responsible choice to stay home when they or their close contacts are sick.

Definition of Symptoms

The Order clarifed the definition of “principal symptoms of COVID-19” for employees to quarantine at home and not lose their jobs for doing so, though employees don’t have to be paid while on leave. The previous worker protection Executive Order 36 from March limited the symptoms to a “fever, atypical cough or atypical shortness of breath.”

Under Executive Order 2020-1, employers must treat employees who stay home when they are sick as if he or she were taking medical leave. Any and all people who test positive for COVID-19 or who display one or more of the principal symptoms, such as a fever, sore throat, a new uncontrolled cough that causes difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe headache, and new loss of taste or smell should stay home. Individuals must remain home until 24 hours have passed since the resolution of fever without medication or 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared or were tested positive.

Revised Definition of ‘Close Contact’

The new Order also changed the definition of a “close contact” from “being within approximately six feet of an individual for a prolonged period of time” to “being within six feet of an individual for fifteen minutes.

The Governor’s new Order clarifies that if an individual has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or has had close contact with a confirmed positive case they should only leave their home for essential trips, to obtain food, medicine, or medical care. Additionally, they may leave to partake in an outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from others.

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