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Health officials, businesses see mostly positive response to mask mandate

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NEW BUFFALO, Mich. -- It’s been nearly two weeks since Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order requiring masks statewide both inside and in crowded areas outside.

For one restaurant, the order has actually helped with backlash they received for already having a mask requirement.

Brewster’s Italian Café had been closed to diners for three months — reopening in June with a mask mandate for both employees and customers.

That came with an angry response, specifically from out-of-state customers used to different guidelines.

“The Governor’s order was very helpful because when we were doing it prior and were getting a lot of pushback, but since the order we are getting minimal pushback,” said Maria Cleveland, owner of Brewster’s Italian Café. “People have accepted that this is not by choice for us, we explained to them that these are the parameters the Governor has given us to stay open.”

While masks may feel like an inconvenience to some, they at least allow restaurants like Brewster’s to remain open.

“No one enjoys wearing those masks, but if it’s the simplest thing that will ensure we can stay open and the other small businesses can stay open and keep their employees employed, it’s a small thing that we can all come together and do,” said Cleveland.

The Berrien County Health Department has also addressed the latest provision in Gov. Whitmer’s order for those who are medically unable to wear a mask.

“If somebody is not wearing one, the store can’t make the assumption that it’s because that customer has a medical intolerance. They do have the right to ask you to put on a face covering, if you have a medical intolerance you just simply have to state that fact,” said Gillian Conrad, Communications Manager for the Berrien County Health Department.

And since Michigan residents and businesses now face a possible $500 fine or misdemeanor charge for not complying, county officials have also figured out how to address complaints.

“We are able to respond to complaints about either staff not wearing masks or correct PPE while they’re serving or greeting patrons coming into a restaurant,” said Conrad.

As for other industries —

“We are directing people to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. On their website, there is an executive order tip form for violations that people would like to report,” said Conrad. “From there, those complaints are directed to the appropriate municipal law enforcement agency for further response.”

To report a tip regarding the executive order with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, head to https://www.berriencounty.org/FormCenter/Sheriffs-Department-7/Executive-Order-Tip-Form-123

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