LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s health department issued a mask requirement and other coronavirus restrictions Monday, just days after the state Supreme Court invalidated a 75-year-old emergency powers law that underpinned Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to control the pandemic.
The Democratic governor separately asked the court to declare its Friday ruling not binding until Oct. 30, to give her administration, the Republican-led Legislature and local health departments time to transition.
GOP leaders questioned delaying the court’s decision and prepared to return to session this month to codify an undetermined number of her 30-plus orders into law, such as one extending base unemployment benefits to 26 weeks from 20 weeks.
The ruling nullified all virus-related orders issued after April 30. It means Whitmer must negotiate with lawmakers to extend a state of emergency and any new COVID-19 orders she writes.
However, the administration can control an epidemic under a 1978 public health law that was not at issue in the case, though its authority is narrower. Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon required the wearing of masks at non-residential indoor and outdoor gatherings, limited gathering sizes, and ordered bars to close indoor common areas where people can dance or mingle and to sell alcohol only at tables kept at least 6 feet apart.
Violation of the order could lead to a civil fine of up to $1,000 or criminal penalties of up to six months in prison and a $200 fine.
The rules “stand up for human life,” said Gordon. He said a different state department would soon issue workplace safety rules, like restaurant capacity limits, mirroring ones that were nixed under the court ruling.
“Honoring these orders and enforcing these orders is critically important to restraining the course of COVID,” Gordon said.
In recent days, some large counties issued their own COVID-19 restrictions, including mask requirements.
“We know that masks work. It’s on all of us to do our part and to have some personal responsibility keeping ourselves, our families and our economy going,” Whitmer said.
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