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No face mask in Michigan? Businesses can deny you service

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Michiganians can't be fined for failing to wear a face covering, but businesses may refuse service to people without their mouth and nose covered, state officials said Friday.

The new requirement to wear a mask in enclosed, public spaces starts Monday, as announced under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's revised stay-home order Friday. 

People are to cover their nose and mouth with homemade or non-medical grade face coverings such as when they enter stores, pharmacies or other public buildings. This was previously a recommendation by the state.

DDOT received a $64.3 million grant to the Detroit Department of Transportation to help pay for transit operations, increased bus cleaning and providing personal protective equipment like masks and gloves to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to save those medical-grade masks for our first responders, people on the front line,” Whitmer said at a news briefing, noting that includes surgical masks and N95 respirator masks.

"No one will be subject to criminal penalty for going without a mask, but face covering is crucial to protecting the public, and our critical employees."

Attorney General Dana Nessel's office confirmed Friday there is no criminal penalty for failing to wear a face covering.

But businesses may refuse service, Whitmer said. She suggested people could use handkerchiefs, bandannas, scarfs or homemade cloth masks. 

Resident Jason Bauer said Friday morning he went to buy a drink at the Menards home improvement store next his business in Auburn Hills, where the security guard told him he couldn't enter without a mask. 

"He said we’re selling them for a buck, so I just bought one," Bauer said, noting he wasn't asked for a mask when he shopped at the Menards on Wednesday. 

"I understand. People shouldn’t be going out as much as they do anyway. It’s not going to kill anyone if they stay home a few more weeks," he added.

"If he had turned me away, I would have been upset, but it was nice they had masks available."

The governor's office said that people won’t have to wear face coverings when they’re walking in their neighborhood.

But employers are required to provide at least cloth face coverings to their employees who are reporting to work, under Whitmer's order.

Grocery workers told Whitmer the "vast majority" of people are wearing masks in their stores, she said. 

"But there are those who don't. And some who do wear masks don't wear them properly, or some who wear masks think that it's either a mask or it's six feet (of distancing). It's both," Whitmer said.

"Just to cover your faces is one important step in addition to that six-foot radius, that is going to be so important to protecting us from the spread of COVID-19 growing again."

Staff writer Beth LeBlanc contributed