Gov. Whitmer clarifies face mask order

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Friday that offers clarifications about the recent face mask order.

The order requires Michiganders to wear a mask in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces.

It clarifies businesses may not assume an unmasked customer cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons, but can accept a customer's verbal statement to that effect.

It also states public safety officers are expected to wear a face covering unless it interferes with their responsibilities.

And wearing a mask at a polling place for voting is encouraged, but not required.

“Wearing a mask is the right thing to do to protect our families, our businesses, and our economy,” said Governor Whitmer. “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.”

“COVID-19 is far from over - people are still getting sick and dying,” said Katie Scott, RN, vice president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “As a nurse, I'm worried that many people are not taking the pandemic seriously enough. 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.”

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 five years old
  • Cannot medically tolerate a face covering
  • Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment
  • Are exercising when wearing a face covering would interfere in the activity
  • Are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election. 

The governor's office cited three studies on possible benefits to mask ordinances.

  • A study on different regions in Germany suggests 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.
  • 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.
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