Michigan Coaches Team Up in Ad Urging Face Coverings

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant is urging Michiganders to mask up.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist has talked for weeks about the 23 people in his circle who have died from the coronavirus.

Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant is urging Michiganders to mask up.

One of those losses was one of Gilchrist’s former basketball coaches, who he met in seventh grade.

“He was someone who taught me to believe in myself and to be confident and believe in the skills that I had,” Gilchrist said. “He was teaching me more than how to shoot a left-hand layup, more than how to … guard the post. He also taught me leadership, taught me life lessons.”

That’s why it was important for Gilchrist to join Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and several coaches from Michigan-area sports teams gathered for Whitmer’s press conference Wednesday to call on Michiganders to wear a mask while they’re out in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also released a new television ad featuring MSU football coach Mel Tucker, MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, MSU women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant, U-M football coach Jim Harbaugh, U-M men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard, and U-M women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico.

In the ad that will air on local television stations across the state, the rival coaches join together to promote the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep Michigan moving forward, not backward. 

“If we all work together as a team and wear our masks now, we can put our state in a stronger position for kids to return to school safely in the fall,” Whitmer said. “Masks can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent, and it’s been proven that masking up can protect our small businesses and our economy. This is going to be a team effort, but I know Michigan is up to the challenge.” 

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Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said the idea is “simple.”

“Wearing a mask saves lives,” Khaldun said. “As we continue working around the clock to fight this virus, it’s crucial that all Michiganders step up and do their part by wearing a mask and practicing safe physical distancing. Let’s all work together as a team and remain vigilant and flexible in this fight.” 

Last week, Whitmer signed executive order 2020-147, which reiterates that individuals are required to wear a face covering whenever they are in an indoor public space. It also requires the use of face coverings in crowded outdoor spaces. Most significantly, the order requires any business that is open to the public to refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering, with limited exceptions. Governors in the states of Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington have imposed similar requirements on businesses. 

“It doesn’t matter who you root for or who you vote for, I am encouraging everyone to wear a mask,” said MSU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo. “It’s simple, but we all have to commit to it to make it work. This is a decision about the health of each person and the health of our greater community. Wearing a mask will protect you and can help save lives.”  

“As a parent and a coach, there is nothing more important to me than the health and safety of our children and community,” said University of Michigan Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kim Barnes Arico. “Whether you live in Ann Arbor, East Lansing or Northern Michigan, we are all on the same team in this fight. Together, we can mask up for Michigan and make a difference.” 

Daily COVID-19 case counts now exceed 20 cases per million in the Detroit, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Jackson and Upper Peninsula regions, and exceed 40 cases per million in the Grand Rapids region. Research confirms that a big part of the reason is spotty compliance with the governor’s requirement, issued in prior orders, that individuals wear face coverings in public spaces.  

Studies have shown that wearing a mask can save lives and significantly lower an individual’s chance of spreading COVID-19. A study on different regions in Germany, for example, suggests that the adoption of mandatory mask ordinances decreased the daily growth rate of COVID-19 infections by 40%. Modeling from the University of Washington similarly indicates that more than 40,000 lives would be spared nationwide if 95% of the population wore a mask while in public. Furthermore, a study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that a federal mask mandate could save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% hit to our GDP. 

Under the governor’s executive order on masks, 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 five years old, those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, and those who are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment.