County leaders make plans to back Dept. of Health face mask and gathering order

The Michigan Supreme Court ruling last week against orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer left county health departments like in Oakland scrambling to come up with emergency orders when it comes to masks and social distancing.

Monday afternoon the state stepped in and at least offered some consistency as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services backed Whitmer and continued her pre-existing safety mandates to limit the spread of COVID-19 with a new order.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that they found a way that guides public, whether you like it, or don't like it, it's in place and we know where we are headed," said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

When the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Governor Gretchen Whitmer no longer has emergency powers, local governments were left with little direction.

Hackel says this past weekend, he saw first hand how passionate and volatile the mask mandate or even lack of one can be.  
And Washtenaw Sheriff Jerry Clayton says his deputies have experienced that for months. 

"You are not going to change a person's ideology but you can reason with a person and say look. I understand your feelings on this, I need you to wear it in this time and space," said Sheriff Clayton.

In the absence of the governor's executive order, struck down by the high court Friday, the state health department issued its own emergency order Monday evening.
The Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services reiterated masks must be worn inside during gatherings and businesses must only allow 20 to 30 percent capacity depending on the venue. It also said that failure to follow the order could come with prison time and or a fine. 

"We are not taking people to jail unless it's the most egregious behavior and public safety is at risk," Clayton said.

As for the fine, the Washtenaw County Sheriff says his department will inform the health department who will make that determination.
While most agree having a set of rules statewide is easier, it is not everything. Some want to see a goal.. When can the emergency be over?

"Doing it (mandating masks) is one thing. but figuring out how to undo it and when do we undo it, is another," Hackel said. "We've got to give the public an understanding as to what it will take to get us over that hump to say ok we are good now."

The group Michigan United for Liberty is behind the lawsuit heard by the supreme court, stripping the governor of her emergency orders.. They now have put out a call to action in response to the state health department, likely looking for a similar course of action. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel had said after the supreme court decision she would not be enforcing laws related to Covid safety. A spokesperson for Nessel said tonight that after the new MDHHS order, her office will again do so.