Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday night issued an executive order that relaxes requirements for government workers responding in person to Freedom of Information Act requests during coronavirus outbreak.
The order, signed Sunday, April 5, applies to records requests submitted by mail fax or in person. Public bodies are now allowed to defer parts of the responses that would require workers to report to government offices in-person, the order states.
The order is effective immediately and is scheduled to be lifted June 4, according to a state-issued news release.
It is the public policy of this state that, during the COVID-19 states of emergency and disaster, public bodies continue to respond to requests for public records as expeditiously as possible and, to the extent practicable, by using electronic means, the order states.
Under the order, workers still must respond to requests received through the mail or fax within 10 business days, but if the request requires a physical search of records, it can be deferred until the order is lifted, the release said.
During a time of crisis, its crucial that Michiganders have access to the information they need to stay safe. My administration is committed to ensuring that while also protecting public health and encouraging social distancing," Whitmer said in the release. This Executive Order encourages public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests in a timely manner and in the safest way possible.
Workers receiving the FOIA requests must communicate to the person who filed it if they are unable to fulfill the request without a physical public record search, the order mandates. The person who filed the request may then amend it to include electronic records only. If the request cannot be fulfilled due to remote work or social distancing, then a written notice should be sent explaining the delay, the order requires.
Whitmer signed another executive order Sunday to extend an existing order that was set to be lifted April 5. The reissued order extends restrictions on visitors at health care and juvenile justice facilities amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Related: Whitmer extends order banning non-essential visits to hospitals, care facilities
The states latest statistical report on COVID-19, which was updated at 3 p.m. April 5, showed there were 15,718 confirmed cases in Michigan with a total of 617 deaths.
Complete coverage of coronavirus in Michigan.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Carry hand sanitizer with you, and use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, counter tops) and when you go into places like stores.
Also on MLive:
Whitmer says patchwork response to coronavirus with no national strategy could prolong fight
Michigan reports 1,493 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and 77 more deaths
Kalamazoo County tops 50 coronavirus cases
Beaumont urges state to make more hospitals release data on coronavirus
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