Citing a lack of manpower, Macomb County Sheriff won't cite violators of new mask rule

In one of the state's highest-profile rejections of Michigan's newest mask law, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office said Monday it won't cite violators of the state's new executive order from the governor.

The rule, which mandates everyone to wear masks when entering enclosed public buildings and crowded outdoor settings, was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer following a rising daily case count of COVID-19. Anyone caught breaking the rule is subject to a $500 fine. Businesses are also required to enforce the rule.

But at the Macomb County Sheriff's direction, they'll be referring those complaints to the Attorney General's office. 

Speaking to FOX 2 Tuesday morning, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the updated code for enforcement is meant as a guidance tool for officers because his department doesn't have enough manpower to respond to every complaint.

The one exception comes if a patron refuses a request from a business to wear a mask and doesn't leave the establishment after being asked. At that point, deputies will treat the scenario as a trespassing complaint.

"If they refuse to wear a mask to leave the store, instead of getting into a confrontation, that's when we said we would respond and we would take enforcement action to help out the local business to make sure there isn't any problems in those stores," said Wickersham.

RELATED: Michigan's new face mask law goes into effect today

Michigan is currently on the upswing of new COVID-19 cases. Aside from the expected dip in new cases reported over the weekend, the state is reporting approximately 600 new cases a day. That's not close to the state's peak in April when concerns over hospital capacity were mounting and a state-led trade group called the Michigan Mortuary Response Team. 

But it's also not the 74 cases reported on June 15. A combination of relaxing business rules and young people flouting social distancing rules at house parties and over holiday breaks has been linked to an uptick in new cases. The worrisome trend has administrators backtracking on plans to continue reopening the state. So far, the only new rules in place pertaining to indoor bar service and a statewide mask rule. 

Other states with spiking coronavirus cases like in Texas and North Carolina, sheriffs have made similar declarations. Although those are verbalized as outright rejections bordering on criticism of the new law, rather than a matter of circumstance regarding manpower as Macomb County's top cop says.