Whitmer signs mandatory mask order for Michigan

NOW: Whitmer signs mandatory mask order for Michigan

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- As we see a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases across Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took swift action Friday – signing an executive order making masks a requirement for all.

Gov. Whitmer saying in a press release that masks are proven to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and wearing masks now will help everyone in the future.

Starting Monday, it won’t just be Michigan businesses that have a mask requirement. Individuals now must mask up inside public places or outside in crowds. If you don’t, you could face a misdemeanor charge and a $500 fine.

But, local health officials were surprised by the announcement too, leaving them trying to figure out just how to enforce the new statewide mask requirement.

“We’re not really sure, again we found out about this a couple of hours ago, so trying to figure out what that looks like. The health department typically does not get involved in any sort of criminal type of enforcement, so I imagine there will be a law enforcement role there,” said Nicki Britten, Health Officer for the Berrien County Health Department.

As for businesses struggling to survive the pandemic, they now have to post signs in their windows and turn away customers who don't have face coverings.

“If masks are going to keep people safe then that’s what we should do,” said Matt Johnson, CEO of Lush Lighting. “There has not been a lot of enforcement of the mask requirement in the state so now that we’re going to see companies being fined for it we’re probably going to see more enforcement.”

Others may not have the same attitude, but health officials still ask people to wear masks despite the hassle it may feel like.

“This came out because we know masks are being proven over time as one of the best prevention and protection measures,” said Danielle Persky, Deputy Health Officer for the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. “And we support the move to even stronger requirements for mask wearing and although it can be uncomfortable, especially in the summertime, we really urge people to take it seriously.”

As state officials hope to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, local health officials want to remind Michiganders that masks can’t be the last line of defense.

“Sometimes I think people who are wearing a mask might feel invincible and feel like ‘Well, I’ve got my mask on so it’s okay if I’m mixing with lots of people or it’s okay if my hand hygiene isn’t quite as good,” said Britten. “There’s all these different factors; hand hygiene and social distancing and minimizing the amount of people you’re having close contact with remain as important as ever.”

Local health officials also say while there are certain medical conditions that prevent people from being able to wear masks, there’s also lots of misinformation, like that masks reduce blood oxygen and increase carbon dioxide levels. Both of which — they say — are unfounded.

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