On May 21, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2020-96 in response to the steady drop in confirmed daily cases of COVID-19. This new order has lifted the postponement of non-essential medical and dental procedures as of May 28 at 11:59 PM. Upon the resurgence of these medical and/or dental services, outpatient healthcare facilities will be subject to the workplace safety rules as provided in Executive Order 2020-97. These restrictions aim to continue the downward trend in daily confirmed cases, while acknowledging that COVID-19 remains a danger in the state of Michigan.

Executive Order 2020-97 enacts safeguards that facilities must use in providing non-essential services. These facilities will be required to post signs at entrances that instruct patients to wear some sort of face covering while inside. Patients will be required to wear this face covering while inside the facility, except as necessary for identification purposes or to conduct an examination or procedure, and facilities must provide face coverings and hand sanitizer at the patient entrances. Of course, employees will be required to properly use their personal protective equipment pursuant to CDC and OSHA guidelines.

A facility’s waiting area capacity must be limited to the number of people who can be present while also staying six feet away from one another. Facilities are encouraged to ask patients to wait in their cars until their appointment is called. These waiting areas must also be marked to enable six feet of social distancing, by either placing X’s on the ground or removing seats in the waiting room.

Healthcare facilities will also be required to enact screening processes for patients with appointments. All facilities must conduct a common screening protocol, including a temperature check and survey regarding COVID-19 symptoms. They must employ specialized procedures for patients with high-temperatures or respiratory symptoms, such as providing separate entrances and having these patients wait in their car, in order to avoid exposing any other patient in the waiting area. Limiting the number of appointments will also be required to facilitate social distancing measures and allowing adequate time between appointments for cleaning and sanitation.

Whitmer is requiring facilities to provide a method for contactless sign-in (such as using a phone app) as soon as possible, and to provide physical barriers at sign-in, temperature screening, or other service points that normally require personal interaction. Facilities must continue to use telehealth and telemedicine to the greatest extent possible, and to provide extended hours for those “at-risk” patients, such as the elderly and immunocompromised.

Healthcare facilities will be required to clean examination rooms between all patients, and deep clean these rooms after any patient with respiratory symptoms, as well as establish procedures for building disinfection in accordance with CDC guidelines in the event that it is suspected an employee or patient has COVID-19, or there is a confirmed case.

For additional information or assistance regarding how your facility can transition into the reopening phase while following Governor Whitmer’s guidelines, or any other health professional issue, contact Kaitlin A. Nucci, Esq., at Wachler & Associates at (248) 544-0888.

KAITLIN NUCCI is an associate attorney at Wachler & Associates, P.C. Nucci represents providers in the defense of Medicare, Medicaid, and third party payor audits. She joined the firm in May 2019. Nucci graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in May 2018. During law school, she competed on the Holderness Moot Court Invitational Negotiation Team, and earned the “Best in Negotiations” Award as a 1L. Kaitlin clerked for reputable law firms in both the Metro-Detroit and Raleigh areas, during which time she honed her skills in legal research and writing. Upon graduation from law school, she temporarily served as a Contracts Management Associate for Samuel, Son & Co., Ltd., an international processor, manufacturer, and distributor of metals.