New Executive Order Tightens Mask Requirements

If Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s last executive order ordering the wearing of face coverings in public indoor spaces and crowded outdoor venues left any doubt about what she was mandating, she took care of it Friday.

Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-153, which strengthens her previous order. The new order contains clarifications on enforcement and on exemptions from the policy.

The new order says 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 also requires public safety officers to wear a face covering unless doing so would seriously interfere in the performance of their responsibilities, and clarifies that wearing a mask at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election is not required, but strongly encouraged. 

“Wearing a mask is the right thing to do to protect our families, our businesses and our economy,” Whitmer said. “If everyone in Michigan masks up, we can save thousands of lives and put ourselves in a better position to send our kids back to school in the fall. For the safety of our loved ones and our dedicated first responders on the front lines: mask up, Michigan.”

Katie Scott, vice president of the Michigan Nurses Association, supported the mask edict because “COVID-19 is far from over – people are still getting sick and dying.”

“As a nurse, I’m worried that many people are not taking the pandemic seriously enough,” Scott said. “Don’t wait until COVID happens to you or a loved one to take action. Wearing a mask is a simple step that protects everyone.”

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Although a face covering is strongly encouraged even for people who are not required to wear one, the requirement to wear a face covering 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 sitting at a food-service establishment;
  • Are exercising when wearing a face covering would interfere in that activity; or
  • Are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election. 

Statistics show that over the past two weeks every region in Michigan has seen an uptick in new cases, and daily case counts now exceed 20 cases per million in all but one region in the state. Research confirms that a big part of the reason is spotty compliance with the governor’s requirement that individuals wear face coverings in public spaces.