Gov. Whitmer toughens mask mandate; businesses must deny service

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LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday toughened a requirement to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic, mandating that businesses open to the public deny service or entry to customers who refuse to wear one.

The governor also expanded where people must have a face covering beyond indoor public spaces. Starting immediately, they have to wear one outdoors if they cannot consistently keep 6 feet (1.8 meters) from nonhousehold members, and while using public transportation, a taxi or a ride-sharing vehicle — with some exceptions.

In a change, violators will now be subject to a misdemeanor fine but will continue to face no jail time.

“No shirts, no shoes, no mask — no service,” Whitmer wrote in an order.

Businesses must comply beginning Monday or risk losing their license.

Face coverings can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19, she said. She pointed to “stalled” progress in suppressing the virus — cases have risen again in Michigan — and contended that spotty compliance with her monthslong mask requirement is a “big part of the reason.”

“The heroes on the frontlines of this crisis have gone hours without taking their masks off every day — doctors, nurses, child care workers, grocery store workers. We owe it to them to wear our masks when we’re on a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.

There are exceptions for kids under age 5 and, as before, people who cannot medically tolerate a mask. Those eating or drinking while seated at a restaurant remain exempt. So too are people exercising, clergy officiating a religious service, and police, firefighters and paramedics engaged in public safety work.

The temporary removal of a face covering is allowed when necessary to receive a service or for identification purposes.

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