Michigan governor further strengthens face mask rule, clarifies order at polling places

Gretchen Whitmer has strengthened her previous order on face masks, that already mandated face masks indoors and in crowded spaces outside where social distancing was not possible.

Under the governor's new order, businesses cannot assume someone has a medical issue keeping them from wearing a face mask if they identify someone who is unmasked. Businesses were already required to tell customers they must be masked before coming in. However, they can accept a "customer's verbal representation" they indeed can't wear one for medical purposes.

Ahead of Michigan's August Primary election day, Whitmer stopped short of also requiring face masks for anyone going to the polls. She did strongly urge voters to wear one though as often crowded lines appear at polling stations.

“Wearing a mask is the right thing to do to protect our families, our businesses, and our economy,” Whitmer said in a statement. “If everyone in Michigan masks up, we can save thousands of lives and put ourselves in a better position to send our kids back to school in the fall. For the safety of our loved ones and our dedicated first responders on the front lines: mask up, Michigan.” 

There are exceptions to the mask rule, beyond the verbal confirmation from customers and polling place expectations. They include the following:

  • Someone is 5 years old
  • Cannot medically tolerate a face covering
  • Are eating or drinking while seated at a restaurant
  • Are exercising when wearing a face covering would interfere with the activity

Whitmer's stance on face masks has grown more strict over the past few weeks as Michigan's coronavirus caseload has spiked. On Wednesday, the state reported almost 900 new cases, a surge that is mimicking similar rebounds in other states across the country.

If cases keep rising, she said she's considered shutting more of the state down. Hospitalization and death rates have remained steady, despite the uptick.