LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan legislators gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that would exempt high school graduation ceremonies from a state order that restricts crowd sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure could be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It passed 22-13 in the Senate, with all Republicans and two Democrats in support.
Outdoor stadiums with enhanced protocols can operate at 20% capacity under the order from the state health department. Up to 1,000 people can be in outdoor arenas with a fixed seating capacity of up to 10,000 — 1,500 if it is a bigger venue — as long as they do not surpass 50% occupancy. At indoor arenas, the limit is 375, or 750 if the seating capacity is more than 10,000.
The legislation would allow more people to attend high school commencements.
“Why shouldn't our schools be able to have safe graduations?” said Sen. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake Township in Oakland County “Why are we still stuck with another one-size-fits-all approach to our high schools?”
Many Democrats have criticized the bill. Whitmer's office did not say if she will sign it.
“There is nothing that prohibits in-person graduation ceremonies, and many universities have already shown that it’s possible to safely hold in-person graduation ceremonies,” spokesman Bobby Leddy said. "Our administration continues to encourage families and school districts to find a safe way to honor students’ incredible achievements.”
The state Department of Health and Human Services recommends that high schools host virtual graduations and proms. It says if in-person events take place, they should be held outside and schools must require all unvaccinated students, staff, volunteers and other attendees to test negative within 24 or 72 hours of the event, depending on the type of test. The use of cohorts or pods is encouraged for social events such as proms and year-end parties.
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