MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. – Monday in Michigan marked the first day that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s new face mask requirement went into effect -- making it a misdemeanor to refuse wearing one in enclosed public spaces.
Violators can face a $500 fine for refusing to comply with the new requirement.
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham is on board with the requirement, urging people to wear face masks and businesses to require them. Like many departments across the state, Macomb deputies will respond when they receive a complaint and will encourage compliance.
But they won’t be writing any tickets.
“We haven’t written a citation and I don’t think we will,” Wickersham said.
The sheriff says he isn’t taking a political stand against Gov. Whitmer, the department just doesn’t have the resources to respond to every complaint about people not complying with the mask requirement.
However, Wickersham says deputies will respond and enforce the new mask law as they can, as he is concerned about protecting employees from possible violent confrontations. Under the new law, businesses will be required to deny entry or service to individuals who don’t comply with face covering requirements.
“We want to tell them that there’s a chance sanctions (are) coming from the state, but it’s not coming from the sheriff’s office,” Wickersham said. “The sheriff’s office is going to be there to assist you, to make sure your businesses stay open and that you and your staff are going to be safe.”
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel does have a problem with the governor, however -- or, at least, he disagrees with her use of her emergency powers amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Hackel believes the new mask requirement is a knee-jerk reaction to recent events, and that it is not democratic.
“When most people are compliant -- and I would agree, you should be wearing a mask -- ... but all of a sudden I’ll come out with a law that didn’t involve law enforcement, didn’t involve our legislature, didn’t involve the democratic process and say, ‘I’m going to make it a misdemeanor violation,‘ -- that puts a lot of people in a very, you know concerning position,” Hackel said of Gov. Whitmer’s new mask law. “Now we’re the ones who have to go ahead and enforce that, and that’s that’s a concern.”
Neither Wickersham nor Hackel disagrees with wearing masks as a step to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hackel also points out that the governor hired extra staff for enforcing the new mask requirements, and has the state police at her disposal.
Whitmer’s recent executive order requiring face coverings comes as COVID-19 cases increase rapidly across the state.
As of Monday, Michigan is reporting 69,722 COVID-19 cases and 6,075 deaths -- and increase of 384 new cases and seven deaths since Sunday.
The state was seeing lower daily increases of COVID-19 cases through most of June, but the daily increases began to climb again near the end of June and beginning of July.
On July 11, 633 COVID-19 additional cases were reported in one day -- the highest daily total since May.