LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that it is impractical for Michigan to try to enforce coronavirus restrictions at President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign rallies, while also pointing to people’s constitutional rights.
Whitmer has expressed safety concerns with several thousand people, many maskless and close together, attending a Trump rally in the Saginaw area last week, calling it a potential COVID-19 superspreader event. Her order restricts outdoor gatherings to no more than 100, though there is an exception for political speech. Her office has said attendees still must keep 6 feet apart from non-household members.
But the state and local authorities did not take enforcement steps and appear unlikely to at future events in the presidential battleground state.
“The federal guidelines will tell you it’s unsafe to pack people into a venue, without masks where people are projecting their voices,” Whitmer said at a news conference while imploring candidates to follow federal and state guidelines. “That being said, we know that there are First Amendment rights here that are at issue. We also know that the practicalities of going in and enforcing this on candidates probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
She urged people to protect themselves and their families by wearing a mask at such rallies or staying home to watch on TV.
Trump has tried to use this summer’s mass protests over racial injustice and police misconduct as cover for his rallies, making the case that, if demonstrators can gather en masse, so can his supporters. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been attentive to regulations. He spoke at a small event, with social distancing, in Warren a day before Trump’s visit.