GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan works to reverse a recent rise in coronavirus cases, businesses must now deny service or entry to customers who refuse to wear a mask.
Starting Monday, businesses that don’t follow the order could lose their license.
On Monday afternoon, the state sent an emergency alert to phones across Michigan informing people of the mandate.
Under the new rules, you must wear a mask anytime you are indoors in a public place, anytime you are outdoors in public and cannot maintain social distance and on public transit. Violators could get charged with a misdemeanor and be ordered to pay a $500 fine, though they won’t face jail time.
“We’ve seen science that says that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic (people) — these are people that are feeling good, are spreading this virus. Somewhere between 40 to 80% of the spread is coming from those groups of people,” said Michigan Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety Sean Egan. “Getting those folks to wear face coverings is the most effective way for us to get open, stay open and protect our economy.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first required masks in enclosed public places, especially grocery stores, on April 24.
In a Monday release, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller reminded the residents of his county that all of Whitmer’s executive orders “carry the weight of law” and urged everyone to follow them. He said his department will focus on educating the public to encourage voluntary compliance.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office said it’s encouraging voluntary compliance, too, saying it “will only take enforcement action if necessary to provide for the safety of the public.” The agency noted that while Whitmer’s order allows exceptions for who must wear masks, including those with medical conditions, the order does not require anybody to prove their have such a condition.
Montcalm County Sheriff Michael Williams said in a Tuesday release that while he is sure “the governor feels (her executive orders) are necessary … the manner in which they’re written and executed leads to great confusion among local law enforcement.” He said with public trust in law enforcement already shaky, he will also focus on education and his deputies would not be issuing citations. He urged people to wear masks when entering businesses and said if you don’t and then refuse to leave when asked, you could be prosecuted for trespassing or disorderly conduct.
Most police agencies have taken similar approaches with all of Whitmer’s orders — working to educate people about following them rather than slapping them with charges.
Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott said in a statement to News 8 that his department will refer all complaints to the Michigan State Police. Abbott says he will not pull resources or deputies away from other calls to investigate complaints or enforce the new order.
Egan says while the state does depend on local police agencies to help enforce this rule, the state can levy fines against businesses that are not making an effort to enforce the mask mandate.
Egan says over the last few months, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filtered several complaints from employees and members of the public about businesses being negligent. He says when employees are put at risk, the state will investigate and can enforce a fine of up to $7,000 at places of work.
“We understand that there are exceptions to the rule and we do not want businesses creating a hazard for employees by turning them into security guards,” Egan added.
Egan says the Michigan Department of Labor is also closely watching businesses that are currently open in violation of previous executive orders. He says they’re encouraging members of the public to report businesses that are not following the order.