07-23-2020 Governor strengthens COVID masks order, says in-person back to school is less likely if v

Governor strengthens COVID masks order, says in-person back to school is less likely if virus numbers are

on the increase in an area

By Jon Bisnett

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-147 Friday, July 10 that requires Michiganders to wear masks in all public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. One week later, Whitmer penned Executive Order 2020-153, rescinding the previous order, while strengthening the rules requiring all Michiganders to wear a mask.

This newest order clarifies that businesses may not assume that an unmasked customer cannot medically tolerate a face covering, though they can accept a customer’s verbal representation to that effect. It further demands public safety officers to wear a face covering unless doing so would seriously interfere in the performance of their responsibilities, and lastly clarifies that wearing a mask at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election is not required, but strongly encouraged.

The requirement of the order does not apply to individuals who, among other things: are younger than 5 years old; cannot medically tolerate a face covering; are eating or drinking while seated at a food establishment; when exercising wearing a face covering would interfere in the activity; are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election.

State Legislature reacts

Lawmakers expressed concern over Whitmer’s use of the statewide emergency alert system to inform residents of COVID-19 related executive orders goes too far. “This is an overt abuse of a service designed to alert people of legitimate emergencies — the Governor has gone beyond the scope and intent of the law and is now somewhere over the rainbow and approaching Oz,” Republican Senator Pete Lucido said in a statement.

The alert in question issued Monday afternoon to cell phone owners in Michigan, warned of Whitmer’s executive order requiring masks going into effect. Previously, Whitmer’s administration also used the emergency alert system to remind residents when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order went into effect back in late March.

Whitmer’s Back to School plan

The Governor’s “Return to School Roadmap” plan is feared less and less plausible by some each time the Governor speaks of the reopening of Michigan schools this fall. Educational insiders at the state’s highest level are concerned the Governor is setting the stage to shut down face-to-face schools altogether. The threat of closing schools has been described as a pawn tossed about in the pursuit of her mask initiative.

“We are only seven weeks away from what we hope to be our kids’ return to in-person instruction,” Whitmer told Michigan News Network. “That is looking less likely as well.” Schools around the state won’t be allowed to hold in-person classes if their region is not in Phase 4 of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. Whitmer says, “I am hopeful that in the coming weeks we’re going to see these numbers go down, and perhaps we can solidify at least phase four, maybe even reengage more things in our economy,” Whitmer said. “But it all depends on mask wearing, and that’s why it’s so difficult to give you a hard and fast date, and a hard and fast number.”

National scene

COVID deaths have continued to rise in many U.S. states after initially declining nationally, with eight states on Sunday reporting a seven-day average in daily new fatalities more than 40 percent higher than a week ago.

The United States’ 7-day average for new daily coronavirus cases has now increased for 41 consecutive days. Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina set records for new known infections, while 14 states broke records for average new cases.

In Washington, D.C., new round of COVID support is in the works on Capitol Hill and may include direct payments, unemployment support and a rollback in payroll taxes.

Cancellations

The world renowned 132nd edition of the Tournament of Roses Parade will not take place on Jan. 1, 2021.

Chief Executive David Eads said, “We’re disappointed, but the health and well-being of all our participants and guests is our top priority.”