Businesses will now be required to deny service to people who don’t wear masks indoors, with limited exceptions for individuals and houses of worship, according to an executive order signed Friday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
She summed up the policy in her order as: “No shirts, no shoes, no mask — no service.”
Michigan has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The order goes into effect immediately for individuals andat 12:01 a.m. Monday for businesses in order to stop the spread of the disease. Masks also are now required for people in crowded outdoor spaces, in light of recent congregations like the Diamond Lake beach party that made national news.
Michigan has almost 68,000 cases and more than 6,000 COVID-19 deaths.
“The heroes on the front lines of this crisis have gone hours without taking their masks off every day – doctors, nurses, child care workers, grocery store workers. We owe it to them to wear our masks when we’re on a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy,” said Whitmer. “Masks can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%. By wearing masks, we can save lives and protect our family, friends, and neighbors from the spread of COVID-19. And by wearing masks now, we can put our state in a stronger position so our kids can return to school safely in the fall. For the sake of your loved ones, let’s all mask up, Michigan.”
Cloth face coverings can help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.”
There’s also a positive economic impact, as a Goldman Sachs study found that a federal mask mandate would prevent a 5% dip in gross domestic product (GDP).
Business groups have had different reactions to mask wearing. The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce has a campaign titled, “Keep Businesses Open #MaskUpMichigan,” arguing that this is the best way to keep businesses open. But the Michigan Retailers Association has been critical of Whitmer’s mandates, arguing it’s an unfair burden for businesses.
Under Whitmer’s order, businesses that are open to the public must refuse entry and service to individuals who fail to comply, and must post signs at all entrances instructing customers of their legal obligation to wear a face covering while inside. Those who are exempt from wearing a mask in Michigan businesses include people younger than 5 years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and those who are eating or drinking at a restaurant.
A willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty, but there’s no jail time.
Governors in the states of Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington have imposed similar requirements on businesses, the governor’s office said.
Whitmer on Thursday reported at a news conference that several areas, including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and the Upper Peninsula, were seeing a rise in cases over the past week.
“Research confirms that a big part of the reason is spotty compliance with my requirement, issued in prior orders, that individuals wear face coverings in public spaces,” Whitmer writes in her E.O.
Republican says ‘nothing the Government can do will stop the spread’
Although several GOP leaders, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have recently endorsed mask wearing, the practice has been mocked in right-wing media like Fox News and President Trump has been loath to wear one in public.
State Rep. Jim Lower (R-Greenville) is among those who is not a fan of wearing a mask.
He tweeted on Thursday, before Whitmer’s executive order requiring masks: “All this nonsense about wear[ing] masks is intended to mask the fact that nothing the Government can do will stop the spread. In fact, that was never the goal. The goal was to flatten the curve.”
“However, the sad reality is the virus is going to keep spreading until we reach herd immunity. We just need to accept the fact that we’ve accomplished our goal of not flooding hospitals.”
It's become clear to me that the only way forward is a completly return to normal. All this non-sense about wear masks is intended to mask the fact that nothing the Government can do will stop the spread. In fact, that was never the goal. The goal was to flatten the curve.
— Jim Lower (@RepJimLower) July 10, 2020
In a tweet later on Thursday, Lower called anti-coronavirus measures “authoritarian” and said people must move “on with our lives.”
“The costs of continuing to live under these insane authoritarian measures is way too high,”he wrote. “We really cannot live under the constant threat of more government imposed shut-downs and restrictions. It’s time we moved on with our lives.”
Montcalm County, where Lower resides, has experienced a significant increase in coronavirus cases.
“From mid-March to the end of May, the county had a total of 70 cases, with one related death,” the Daily News, which covers Montcalm and Ionia counties, reported on Wednesday. “From June 1 to July 1, the county saw 20 more cases for a total of 90.”
My wife likes to sew so she made some masks to donate to our local hospital. She plans to make more over the next few weeks. pic.twitter.com/XzgIqp6oQf
— Jim Lower (@RepJimLower) March 23, 2020
In March, Lower tweeted about masks in a positive way: “My wife likes to sew so she made some masks to donate to our local hospital. She plans to make more over the next few weeks.”
House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) on Friday called Lower’s tweets “very concerning” and “frightening” considering the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths Michigan has experienced.