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Macomb sheriff's office won't cite mask order violators

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office on Monday announced it will not issue citations to people who don't wear masks — a pushback against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order that residents wear face coverings in businesses and crowded outdoor spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer’s order went into effect on Monday, but the Macomb County department posted on its Facebook page that it would leave the issue up to local businesses. 

The Macomb County Sheriff's Office said Monday it will not ticket people who defy Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order to wear a mask in most public places.

 “If a business wishes to enforce this order, they may require patrons to wear a mask,” the announcement said. “If the patron refuses, the business may ask them to leave their establishment. If the patron refuses, the business may contact us and we will treat it as a trespassing complaint.”

The sheriff's office said complaints against people not wearing masks or businesses that don't enforce Whitmer's order can be made with the Michigan Attorney General's Office.

“The Sheriff's Office will respond to an establishment that contacts us regarding a person(s) being non-compliant with wearing a face mask, or who does not leave a business,” the announcement said. “We will take direction from the business owner or establishment representative on course of action. We encourage all to wear a face mask.”

Pageant Atterberry, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, said the department is taking its cues on the mask mandate from county health officials.

"Our health department is enforcing the wearing of masks, and we will assist if requested," she said.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office will respond to all complaints regarding the governor’s order under long-established protocols, said Sgt. Genefer Harvey.

“If there is a violation, we will write a report and send to health division (officials) and they will decide what action will be taken, and they will forward to the attorney general,” said Harvey.

She added that 92% of complaints that have been filed with the department regarding the governor’s orders since the beginning of the pandemic have been unfounded.

Whitmer issued the order requiring the wearing of masks on Friday, saying that they can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%. Violators could be subject to a misdemeanor penalty, potentially a $500 fine. Businesses that don't comply could also have their licenses suspended.

In a statement, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said enforcement is necessary to protect public health.

“From the beginning of this health crisis, Governor Whitmer has done everything within her legal authority to protect the health and safety of Michiganders," she said. "Law enforcement officers who ignore the law put the lives of those they are sworn to protect at risk.

"Face coverings are a simple, effective way to reduce the spread of this deadly disease," Brown said. "During a health crisis that has killed more than 6,000 people across the the state, we must all work together to defeat this disease.”

The governor's office sent an alert late Monday afternoon saying that "Michiganders are REQUIRED by executive order to wear face coverings in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. Businesses must refuse entry or service to those who do not wear a face-covering (with limited exceptions)."

Michigan is seeing an increase in the number of known cases of COVID-19, with a seven-week high for new infections last week, with the total exceeding 3,400.

Michigan reported seven coronavirus deaths Monday and 384 new cases.

The average number of new cases for the past seven days ending Monday was up to 507 a day from an average of 382 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data.