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Despite court ruling, COVID-19 restrictions aren't going anywhere, says U-M law professor

Posted at 10:22 PM, Oct 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-03 22:22:51-04

(WXYZ) — In a ruling Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled a state law that had been on the books for decades is unconstitutional. However, legal experts say that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.

“Honestly, not a whole lot is going to change on the ground immediately or maybe at all,” said Sam Bagenstos, a law professor at the University of Michigan.

Bars and restaurants have been feeling the impacts of COVID-19 arguably more than any other industry, but even after this ruling, the restrictions in place will likely remain.

City Tavern in Royal Oak had its grand opening on March 12, just four days before shutting down again due to COVID-19.

“We’re trying our best to keep going and keep the place open,” said part owner Noemi Valle.

Since then, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has made well over 100 executive orders, many of them now ruled unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court.

“If people are expecting after the decision yesterday that everything is opened up and it’s the wild west out there, it’s not,” Bagenstos said.

Bagenstos also said the ruling only applied the governor's emergency powers, meaning other health orders regarding masks or capacity can be made if they haven't been already.

“The orders are still in place right now, and something very much like the orders is likely to remain in place at least in the near future,” Bagenstos said.

Oakland County Health officials already issued their own order requiring masks in public, while promising more orders for bar and restaurant capacity in the near future.

“The public health laws are much narrower, much more targeted to something like a pandemic," Bagenstos said "So on the rationale of yesterday's decision, the orders issued under the public health laws ought to be constitutional.”

For now, Valle says City Tavern's rules remain in place and they're just hoping to get through the pandemic safely.

“Until Oakland County says we’re good to go, we’re gonna keep following the rules,” Valle said.