Whitmer calls for statewide face mask law with Republican support
No additional stay home orders planned despite rising case numbers in Michigan
LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Face coverings are required in Michigan, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to make it an official law.
Whitmer pointed out the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a statewide order requiring masks or face coverings on Oct. 5, which remains in effect and carries the force of law. It was issued as an epidemic order under the state’s 1978 Public Health Code.
But Whitmer wants to take the order a step further with a bipartisan state law requiring masks or face coverings from the Republican-led Michigan Legislature. She believes that would remove some of the politics around wearing masks and encourage more people to comply.
“I think the politics of masks has gotten in the way of us all stepping up to this challenge,” Whitmer said. “It would send a powerful message about the seriousness of this moment.”
She issued a statewide order requiring masks or face coverings in indoor spaces or crowded outdoor spaces last May. The Michigan Supreme Court threw out the law Whitmer used to make that order and invalidated it, leading to the Oct. 5 order from state health officials under a different law not affected by the court ruling.
While she doesn’t have confirmed data showing Michigan’s compliance with wearing masks, Whitmer said anecdotal evidence suggests a higher percentage of Michigan residents are wearing masks compared to neighboring states.
“We all have to be in this together,” she said. “It can’t be some of us, it has to be all of us.”
Whitmer is not currently planning a new stay home order similar to what she required in March, when the coronavirus pandemic reached Michigan. She said some of the factors leading to the earlier order, which ended in June, no longer are present even as COVID-19 case numbers continually set records in October and November.
Whitmer said hospitals are not pushed as close to capacity now as last spring and health care providers have more personal protective equipment on hand. The spread of coronavirus currently isn’t exploding out of control like COVID-19 activity back in March and April.
Still, Whitmer is calling on Michigan residents to scale back their holiday plans and reconsider any large gatherings to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. No additional orders prohibiting family holiday gatherings were announced Thursday, but Whitmer believes some action is possible later to heighten awareness.
“None of us wants to pull family together and have it become a deadly outcome for someone in our extended family,” she said.
Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.