Whitmer Says She May Have To Take Mask Rule A Step Further To Make Sure People Comply

(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she may have to strengthen mask requirements in Michigan, with coronavirus numbers again on the rise. 

"This trend can't continue," the governor said at a  news conference Thursday. 

"Over the past week we've seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and over the holiday weekend we saw countless Michiganders gather in large groups to celebrate Fourth of July without a mask. I think a lot of people saw this video footage from Cass County, Diamond Lake," she added, referencing a packed lake party in southwestern Michigan last Saturday. 

Whitmer, who says masks can reduce the risk of spreading the virus about 75%, noted that some people don't seem to understand that masks are mandatory in Michigan. 

"I want to be very clear: Right now the law requires that anyone in an enclosed public space has to wear a mask; and that means every store you're going into," she said. "And we are reviewing that requirement and considering whether we need to take this a step further to strengthen compliance, because we cannot let our guard down. We can't afford to play fast and loose with the rules." 

The governor did not immediately offer any details as to what the "step further" might be.

 - Read all the details of Michigan's current mask rule HERE - 

Whitmer said if we let our guard down we could see a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Michigan.

"Just look at what's happening with Florida," she said. "It took less than two weeks for Florida to go from 100,000 to 200,000 positive cases, and the cases there are still climbing. Last weekend they reported over 11,000 cases in one day. "

As younger people are blamed for some recent outbreaks — particularly linked to crowded bars — Whitmer stressed that COVID-19 is not an old person's disease.

"Statewide, one in five cases are patients that are between the ages of 25 and 34," Whitmer said. "So, youth will not protect you from carrying and spreading this virus to your friends and family and neighbors. We've got to all work together to protect one another, and that means wearing a mask."

The governor had hoped to move the state to Phase 5 of her 'MI Safe Start' plan — reopening gyms, indoor theaters and casinos — early this month, but that's out of the question now. In fact, she said this week, she may have to roll back to Phase 3 depending on what the numbers show. 

As of last official count from the health department, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan was 67,237, including 6,015 deaths. The latest update includes 610 new cases and 10 additional deaths reported Wednesday afternoon; the highest daily increase in case since May.

Data from Covid Act Now shows Michigan is now at “high risk” for a coronavirus outbreak. Back on June 18, Michigan was labeled by the same group of researchers as “on track to contain COVID," then moving to “experiencing controlled disease growth” on July 2.

Whitmer told WWJ Newsradio 950 yesterday that she will soon be signing an executive order to extend the State of Emergency in Michigan. That order is currently set to expire on July 16.