By Sara Powers

DETROIT (AP) — An emergence in COVID-19 variant cases has prompted Detroit to extend an order permitting in-person meetings without violations of the Open Meetings Act.

Denise Fair, the city’s chief public health officer, issued a public health order Wednesday moving in-person restrictions to July 31.

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The order came a day after state limits on large indoor gatherings such as weddings and funerals ended, and entertainment businesses and other venues were allowed to return to 100% occupancy.

Detroit said Wednesday in a release that the spread of variants in the city and surrounding communities, the city’s vaccination rate and certain in-person meetings “pose a substantial risk.”

“Multiple governmental bodies in Detroit have directly communicated the desire to have the flexibility to hold hybrid meetings, with both in-person and virtual components due to the lack of space to be able to physically distance themselves,” Fair said. “We recognize the importance of conducting open and transparent government meetings but we need to do so in a manner that does not jeopardize the public’s health and safety.”

The order can be rescinded before July 31.

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The so-called COVID-19 delta variant, which was first detected in India, now represents more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and public health officials have said statewide restrictions were needed until enough people in Michigan could be vaccinated.

Whitmer wants the state’s vaccination rate up to at least 70%. Roughly 61% of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one shot. Detroit’s vaccination rate for residents 12 and older is about 37%.

The city has had more than 51,400 confirmed virus cases and 2,270 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

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