07-16-2020 Masks ordered statewide; COVID case count climbs; COVID-19 return policies mask all at Wa

INTERCARE… mobile COVID-19 testing in Watervliet, Wednesday July 8 across from Tri-City Village in the Arclight parking lot. To get tested for COVID-19 people are not required to have a doctor’s order and do not have to be an InterCare patient. Friday, August 7, InterCare will be in Watervliet again in the parking lot just north of JOT Liquor downtown. (TCR photo by Amy Loshbough)

Masks ordered statewide; COVID case count climbs

By Jon Bisnett In further response to the uptick in Michigan COVID-19 cases, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order EO 2020-147 last Friday. The order requires Michiganders to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, further requiring business open to the public to refuse service to people without face coverings. Thus putting the Governor in the middle of yet another controversy over use of her powers versus constitutionality and civil liberty. The order goes on to make individual violations a misdemeanor offense subject to a $500 fine, while businesses that fail to comply would be putting their licenses at risk. Whitmer’s initial EO that required masks was EO109 issued May 29, so it has been a misdemeanor crime in Michigan to enter a grocery store in the state without a face mask for nearly six weeks. The difference is that it wasn’t being enforced, with the majority of people mostly complying. Order #147 is very different. It is the first time a face mask is required to be worn outdoors when a 6-foot distance is not possible. It has been a misdemeanor crime to be within six feet of another person who is not a member of your household since at least June 1 (see EO 110).

Reactions Van Buren County Sheriff Dan Abbott was one of the first to react in saying: “With the new executive order handed down by the Governor it puts a criminal penalty on not wearing a mask in public spaces. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office will enforce any criminal law that was voted on and passed through the proper channels of government. This order was enacted by the Governor herself and all complaints that come into Sheriff’s Office will be referred to her office, the Michigan State Police or the Office of Attorney General. We will not take enforcement action on this order nor will we investigate complaints regarding this order or any other Executive Order.” The Michigan State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Charlie Owens says that small business owners are now caught in the crossfire. “On the one hand, it helps the business owner to be able to tell a customer that it’s the law and if they do not require a face covering then they could end up getting shut down,” but argues, “On the other hand, it puts them in the position of being the enforcement arm and arbiter of the governor’s orders.” The Small Business Administration of Michigan recommends that businesses open to the public: Create a written mask policy. Train staff on elements of the implementation of these new procedures. Post entrance signs of the legal requirement. Verbally notify non-compliant customers of the requirement. Discourage any kind altercation with customers and call the police if a customer refuses to leave the premises upon being asked, while keeping employees and other customers away from non-compliant customers. In a later clarification of his initial statement, Sheriff Dan Abbott said although his department would not respond to enforce mask wearing itself, they would react to any incident involving a confrontation over the issue, should that occur. Corporate statements from many recognized Michigan businesses, including major players such as Meijer and Harding’s, are asking customers to comply with the order and are implementing the full extent of the protocol, while asking customers to be patient and kind to the employees charged to enforce the policy. Whitmer now cautions schools What mostly seemed plausible when she released the “Return to School Roadmap” plan last week and said that she was “optimistic” about schools reopening, has begun to take a more cautionary tone. Only three days later, as new cases reached their highest point since May, Whitmer said, “If we want to be in a position in eight weeks from now where we can get our kids back in in-person education, this trend can’t continue, and that’s why masking up is going to be so important.”

National scene At least 40 states now report a significant increase in ne