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Whitmer: Mask mandate still in effect under MDHHS order

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A visitor wearing a mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19 passes a sign requiring masks, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in San Antonio. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared masks or face coverings must be worn in public across most of the state as local officials across the state say their hospitals are becoming increasingly stretched and are in danger of becoming overrun as cases of the coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

DAVISON, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her team is combing through state law and a Friday ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court that threw out six months’ worth of coronavirus mitigation mandates, looking for options to continue her administration’s response.

“We’re really seeking to make sure that we’ve got a plan for every individual thing that we were doing and determine under what authority we can move forward or if there’s another way we have to move to address them,” Whitmer said, speaking to reporters Monday morning during a campaign event for state House candidates near Flint. “As you know, there are a lot of different pieces to the COVID(-19) response that we’ve had in Michigan. It’s been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved and the strength that our economy is in right now. All of that’s in jeopardy.”

She said a mask mandate is still in effect under an epidemic order issued by the head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“We know that masks work. It’s on all of us to do our part and to have some personal responsibility to keeping ourselves, our families and our economy going,” the governor said, adding the health orders are enforceable by a fine.

In a narrow vote, the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Whitmer’s emergency orders designed to control the spread of the coronavirus when it ruled the 1945 law on which she was basing them unconstitutional.

“We know that the fallout from the Supreme Court determination — the slim majority on a party-line vote… — is still being ascertained. We are studying it to make sure that where we can act, we do; where there are gaps to be filled that we work to do that, as well,” Whitmer said. “I think it’s premature to tell you exactly how everything is going to play out, but we’re working to keep people safe. And I am by no means … finished trying to protect the people of this state.”

Whitmer said her initial guidance from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was that her executive orders would remain in effect for 21 days, though Whitmer noted her office was seeking clarity from the court Monday.

Over the weekend, Nessel said she would stop prosecuting cases based upon Whitmer’s orders.

The governor, a Democrat, said her staff has been contact with staff for the Republicans who control Michigan’s Legislature to determine what will happen next.

“They (the state House and Senate) only have a couple of days on the calendar between now and the election,” Whitmer said. “So they may have to rearrange their calendars and get back to Lansing.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told Bridge Michigan magazine over the weekend that he and his fellow Republicans had no “appetite” to issue a statewide mask mandate. Their focus, he said, would be less on requirements and more on education and encouragement of following health safety protocols.

Whitmer is certain to push for a more stringent response.

Wisconsin dropped their guard and they are the national hot spot,” she noted, referring to a surge in cases that has spilled into the Upper Peninsula, causing her on Friday to push the region back a reopening phase. “I’m hopeful that the people of Michigan keep doing what we need to do. We’ve shown that we know how to keep this virus from community spread. It’s wearing a mask, it is physical distancing, it’s washing our hands.”

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