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Making sense of Michigan’s mask orders following state Supreme Court decision

MDHHS reinstates order requiring masks, gathering restrictions under different law

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Supreme Court ruling on Friday to strike down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency orders has led to questions about the state’s mask mandate.

Whitmer now has Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, reinstating mask requirements and establishing rules using a different law.

“We are all exhausted by the virus," Gordon said. “Unfortunately, it is not tired of us. And it’s not done with us. In fact, cases are increasing in Michigan right now."

Whitmer and Gordon both believe masks are the best defense against COVID-19. The two looked to a law developed after the Spanish Flu a century ago, allowing the health department director to create his or her own orders regarding gathering sizes.

“In fact, it is a more specific authority that governs a circumstance just like this,” Gordon said. “The law was written by people who lived through an awful pandemic and wanted to make sure that the government had the authority to deal with it.”

However when it comes to court cases, things can become complicated, according to Patrick Wright, legal director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

“You can be safe and follow the constitution," Wright said. “They are not mutually exclusive."

The Mackinac Center has two cases pending against the governor and the health department director, having won both.

Wright believes Whitmer is trying to extend an order that been ruled unconstitutional when it never came up in the nearly four hours of oral arguments before the state Supreme Court.


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