Gilchrist asks GOP leaders for mask mandate in Legislature


Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist discusses the state’s response to coronavirus on July 15, 2020, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer looks on. (Courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II called Wednesday for Republican legislative leaders to enact and enforce a mask requirement inside the House and Senate chambers, saying he fears for the safety of his family and others when lawmakers do not wear a face covering.

The Democrat presides over session in the Senate, which will return Thursday to start passing bills following a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus orders. The state health department requires masks at indoor non-residential gatherings, but the Legislature is seen as exempt from that order and the governor’s prior face covering order — first issued in April — because it is a separate branch of government.

Though legislators have been encouraged to wear masks, many Republicans do not or remove them for extended periods.

In an “open letter,” Gilchrist urged Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield to require face coverings. He said he is the father of young children and has lost 23 people to COVID-19.

Masks, he wrote, are a “matter of science” and are proven to be an effective, simple way to slow the spread of the virus.

Messages seeking comment were left with the leaders’ spokespeople.

“The decision to wear a mask demonstrates that you respect the safety of everyone around you and everyone that they care about,” Gilchrist said. “So let us model the safest behavior with the hopes that others would do the same.”