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Whitmer: Mask mandate is 'not about being punitive,' but community safety

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 19:14:59-04

LANSING (WXYZ) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer elaborated on her decision to mandate public mask wearing for indoor spaces, as well as crowded outdoor spaces. If the order is not followed, violators could face a $500 fine.

This decision has been met with backlash and some confusion, as even some local law enforcement agencies have stated that citations would not be given to those not wearing masks.

"If people don’t wear masks... we end up having to take steps back," Whitmer said during Wednesday's daily coronavirus press conference.

Following announcement of the governor's order, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office explained to residents citations would not be given out for not wearing masks. But instead, if a business asks a customer to wear a mask and that customer refuses, then authorities would issue a trespassing citation.

The Lapeer County Sheriff's Office echoed the same sentiments, saying that with limited resources and manpower they are "completely handcuffed by the clarity and legality of" the governor's orders. The statement, which was posted on Facebook, adds that multiple jurisdictions in the county will govern as they see fit, however, the sheriff's office won't be writing non-compliance mask tickets.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said in a tweet that individual complaints about businesses not requiring people to wear masks should be forwarded to the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which is not the case, according to the AG's office.

"We do not supervise city police chiefs or county sheriffs. They answer to their constituents, taxpayers and voters, and we encourage those residents who are upset with the actions of those agencies to express their dissatisfaction with the leadership there," a statement from Attorney General Dana Nessel read.

It went on to say, "The Governor’s executive orders carry the weight of law. Local police agencies and county prosecutors are still the most appropriate authorities to deal with violations of the executive orders as they are present in the communities they police and deal with complaints about violations of the law each and every day. We trust those professionals to use their authority and discretion in addressing reports of executive order violations."

In Wayne County, the sheriff's office will be enforcing the governor's mask mandate, saying that a warning will be given first then a $500 fine if there is continued non-compliance.

During Wednesday's press conference, Whitmer said that the order is "not about being punitive," adding that the intention behind the order is not to have people arrested or pay fines, she said.

Whitmer added that there has been ongoing dialogue between her office and local law enforcement.

RELATED: Whitmer: 'I'm not sure we'll get to phase 5 by the Fourth of July'

But without the mask mandate, she says the state may be forced to take steps backwards as movement into phase 5 of the reopening plan has been halted for much of the state, due to an ongoing increase in virus cases.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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