Michigan’s new strategy in COVID compliance: politely asking rather than mandating

State recommends pause on indoor dining, sports, in-person high school classes

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services took a new tactic Friday in the fight against coronavirus: asking nicely.

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services took a new tactic Friday in the fight against coronavirus: asking nicely.

READ: Voluntary COVID restrictions: Whitmer, MDHHS ask Michiganders for 2-week pause

While the state isn’t mandating any new restrictions, it is asking Michiganders to take matters into their own hands.

“As we take a hard look at the data and observe the spread of the variance, we all need to go above and beyond the rules we already have in place. We all have to step up our game for the next two weeks to bring down rising cases,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I’m calling on high schools to voluntarily go remote for two weeks past spring break, new sports to voluntary suspend games and practices for two weeks. And I’m strongly encouraging all Michiganders to avoid dining indoors, and avoid gathering with friends indoors for two weeks.”

Whitmer suggested residents can support local restaurants by eating outside or getting takeout.

READ: 13 takeaways from Whitmer’s COVID update: Alarming trends, voluntary restrictions, vaccine timeline

“A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort,” Whitmer said. “We have to do this together.”

Superintendents around Metro Detroit have been begging parents for weeks to not have social gatherings or unnecessarily travel.

“Just because things are open, doesn’t mean you have to go if it isn’t necessary,” said Dr. Frank McGeorge. “Be sensible, protect yourself and others. Remember, freedom comes with a cost. Pay it by acting responsibly and don’t let the cost be lives lost to COVID.”

As Michigan’s top officials asks politely and urges safety compliance, Dr. Jason Wasserman -- a medical bio-ethics expert at Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine -- said encouragement will not likely change behavior.

“We’re in a situation where we can’t un-ring the bell on the politicization of masks and and social cooperation around COVID, and I’m not sure that trying to go back to some sort of altruistic attempt to manage healthy behaviors amidst this pandemic is going to be entirely successful,” Wasserman said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had people that have made things like masks these salient political symbols and it’s it’s kind of crazy that someone can vest so much symbolic meaning in just wearing a mask that they view it as a tool of oppression and not wearing it becomes a sign of resistance and rebellion. That’s not what it is. It’s a simple measure to keep droplets from coming out of your mouth and getting other people sick and it works.”

About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's married and the stepmother of three beautiful and brilliant daughters. Her personal philosophy in life, love and community is, "Do as much as you can possibly do, not as little as you can possibly get away with".

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.