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Detroit issues public health order to keep state's COVID-19 safety rules

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit's chief public health officer on Friday issued an order that maintains the state's rules for wearing facial coverings to combat COVID-19.

Mayor Mike Duggan and the city's Public Health Officer Denise Fair announced the move during a news conference livestreamed from the city's Public Safety Headquarters downtown.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

The move is intended to clear up confusion over rules for wearing masks in public and limiting the number of people in gatherings after a Michigan Supreme Court decision last week struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's authority to establish mandates. 

Duggan said the city's public health officer was issuing the order to maintain Whitmer's emergency orders.

"What we are doing is making sure that the steps the governor has taken continue to protect the city," the mayor said. "We are going to make sure the city has certainty and continuity."

Under a Michigan public health code passed in 1978, Fair has the authority as the city's public health officer to issue orders and take action during epidemics, he said.

Detroiters have the lowest COVID-19 infection rate at 1.8% in the state, Fair said. Southeast Michigan's rate is 3.4% and the state's rate is 3.5%, she said.

"Detroiters have really stepped up," Fair said. "I want to thank the citizens of Detroit for meeting this challenge head on, but there is still more work left to do. We have to remain on the course and we have to remain vigilant.

"So that is why today I am issuing my authority as the health officer to guarantee continuity and provide certainty for Detroiters," she said. "I want to make sure there is no confusion. We are going to follow the governor's orders and we're going to keep the same procedures in place."

Officials said the order went into effect immediately and its provisions are nearly identical to Whitmer's emergency COVID-19 orders. The city's order is available to view on the city's website.

Clement "Fame" Brown, the owner of the Three Thirteen Store on the city's west side and who was at the news conference with Duggan and Fair, said he supports the health order.

"We ask our customers to wear masks when they're in the store," he said. "The reality of it is our customers ... don't want the risk of contracting an invisible enemy. I stand with the city and the health department."

Wayne County, which includes the city of Detroit, issued an emergency order Thursday requiring residents to wear facial coverings outside of their homes. Oakland County issued a mask mandate Saturday. Macomb County said it would not issue an order, preferring the state government establish a policy for wearing facial coverings.

The orders came in the wake of the landmark state Supreme Court ruling that found that Whitmer violated her constitutional authority by continuing to issue executive orders to combat the pandemic without the approval of state lawmakers.

"We have done far too much work," Duggan said. "So we decided that we can't afford to operate in this legal chaos.

"I really want to be clear about what we all know: If somebody in Detroit gets COVID-19, there's no helicopter coming to take you to Walter Reed Hospital for the latest experimental treatment," the mayor said. "We're gonna have to act, to protect each other. And so here's what we're going to do."