Mount Clemens — Macomb County’s top executive said Monday the county is not issuing a mandate requiring its residents to wear masks or facial coverings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, we’re not,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said.
His comments come days after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the emergency powers Gov. Gretchen Whitmer invoked because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also come about a day after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she will no longer enforce the governor’s pandemic-related executive orders, effectively ending dozens of statewide edicts, in the wake of the court’s decision.
On Monday, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued a countywide order requiring face coverings in all public settings. The order also limits the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings, keep the capacity of bars and restaurants to 50% or less and continues mandatory, daily health screenings of employees.
Hackel said Monday he had his staff are “still trying to figure out what this all really means.”
“No one seems to have a definitive answer, so we’re not just jumping in with some policy,” he said.
Hackel said Michigan’s state government needs to be involved in issuing any policy that requires people to wear face masks.
“This has to be a statewide decision,” Hackel said. “The state needs to get its act together and come up with a decision on what we’re doing statewide. This is a state responsibility and they need to make something happen statewide.”
He pointed out that the state asked each local school district to decide for itself whether or not they would physically open for students. The result is a “hodge-podge mess with every district doing something different. That creates a tremendous problem.”
Hackel also said that without a state government issued policy regarding face coverings the question then becomes how are counties and municipalities supposed to enforce local laws requiring them.
Meanwhile, from what Hackel and his staff understand, the governor’s pandemic-related executive orders still exist and stand, he said.
“We’ve been told they are still in effect,” Hackel said. “Like it or not, people still need to follow or adhere to the governor’s orders. They’re still the law.”
If the state doesn’t issue a statewide mandate, Hackel said the county will have to decide on what to do next.
Until then, the county executive said he recommends Macomb County residents follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for protecting themselves against COVID-19.
The federal agency reccommends:
► Wash hands often,
► Using hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available,
► Avoiding people who are sick,
► Avoiding close contact with other people, staying at least six feet away from them,
► Covering your mouth and nose with a mask when around others,
► Covering coughs and sneezes and
► Daily cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Unlike Macomb County, its neighbor to the west, Oakland County, has issued an order requiring residents to wear masks or facial coverings when leaving their homes.
“Health and science experts agree that facial coverings are critical to controlling the virus,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement. “We have come too far to backslide now especially as we want to get kids back to school and our economy moving again. In Oakland County masks will continue to be mandatory by order of our health experts.”
Washtenaw Health Officer Jimena Loveluck said there is no question that wearing face coverings, keeping distance, cleaning hands and fully cooperating with health officials reduces the spread of COVID-19 and prevents additional cases.
Washtenaw County has reported a total of 3,459 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date. According to the MI Safe Start Map, Washtenaw County is at the second highest risk level (D) for daily cases per million (86.3). Positivity has increased this past week but remains relatively low at 2.2%.
“We must continue working together to reduce the spread of illness and protect everyone’s health,” Loveluck said. “The pandemic is not over, and we must remain cautious – even as we work to resume as much normalcy as possible as safely as possible.”
Jennifer Chambers contributed.