Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference on Belle Isle in Detroit, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, announcing the end of COVID restrictions in the state. After facing 15 months of capacity restrictions and being hit by the country’s worst surge of coronavirus infections this spring, restaurants, entertainment businesses and other venues can operate at 100% occupancy starting Tuesday. (David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer scaled back COVID-19 workplace safety rules on Tuesday, keeping mask and other requirements only in health care settings.

The change coincided with the lifting of broad indoor capacity restrictions and face covering mandates that had been in place for 15 months.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration's new emergency rules align with federal regulations that aim to protect health workers who are most likely to have contact with infected people. The rules cover employees in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and outpatient settings such as doctor's offices. They also cover emergency responders and home health aides.

Workers must wear masks while on the job, with certain exceptions. Fully vaccinated employees, for instance, are exempt from masking, distancing and barrier requirements in areas where it is unlikely people with COVID-19 are present.

Michigan employers are no longer required to have written COVID-19 preparedness and response plans or to conduct daily self-screening protocols for all entering employees and contractors. They also do not have to require unvaccinated workers to wear face coverings when they cannot consistently keep 6 feet apart.

MIOSHA said dialing back the rules — now set to expire Dec. 22 — lets employers use their best judgment on mask and other requirements. But it strongly encouraged non-health care workplaces to still follow federal safety guidance, which was recently updated to focus on protecting unvaccinated workers or those otherwise at risk.

"The restoration of the autonomy of small business owners to establish workplace practices of their choosing is an important step toward recovery,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. "It moves Michigan more in line with the mainstream across the country.”

The move came roughly a month after Whitmer loosened the regulations to rescind industry-specific rules, allow vaccinated employees to go without a mask and clear the way for a return to offices for those who previously could work from home.


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