(WWJ) A new Executive Directive by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is designed to strengthen enforcement of her COVID-19 orders.
Executive Directive 2020-08, signed on Tuesday, instructs state departments and agencies, including the Michigan State Police, to enforce the mask mandate and other COVID-19-related laws, ensuring they are given "the priority that fighting a pandemic demands."
Specifically, the three-page directive states that State Police "must enforce violations of COVID-19 executive orders and epidemic orders in the same manner as it would enforce any other violation of law, using enforcement discretion as appropriate."
Under the directive, directors and agency heads are told to assign "elevated priority" to enforcement of COVID-19 orders in areas such as nursing homes, meat processing plants, and agricultural housing, among other places, where the virus has been known to spread.
Also under the directive, departments and agencies who become aware of a violation must share that information with relevant licensing authorities, and collaborate on enforcement "to ensure efficiency and effectiveness."
So far, enforcement of the mask mandate and other COVID-19 orders has been spotty. The latest version of the mask mandate requires businesses to enforce it themselves, by denying entry or service, while some local law enforcement say they won't respond to complaints about unmasked people. Meanwhile, some businesses have been flouting other restrictions — such as gyms that refuse to stay closed, and venues hosting events that violate limits on public gatherings.
Without effective enforcement, Whitmer says Michigan will move backwards, causing residents businesses and the economy to suffer.
The governor said a single failure could set Michigan back weeks, pointing to an outbreak at an East Lansing bar, one of the largest so far in the U.S., which resulted in at last 187 infections.
“Ensuring these executive orders are enforced across the state will protect Michigan families, small businesses, and the first responders on the front lines of this crisis,” said Gov. Whitmer. “This fight is not over yet. During the month of July we saw an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in every region of the state. By allocating the appropriate and needed resources, we can continue to save lives and ensure we don’t have to move backward.”
In announcing this order, Whitmer's office noted that that cases have risen over the past month — from a rolling seven-day average of about 15 cases per million on in mid-June, the low point since the peak last April, to about 50 cases per million in late July.
But things are looking up in recent days.
At a news conference Wednesday, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Doctor Joneigh Khaldun said the virus numbers are leveling out.
"Overall, we are seeing a plateau in cases after a very slight uptick in June and July," Khaldun said, adding that we must remain cautious.
"Our hospitalizations and deaths continue to remain steady and low, particularly the deaths," she said. "These are all good signs and we will continue to monitor these metrics. But, as we all know, even a trend is stabilizing, it only takes a few people to create an outbreak and have the disease spread rapidly."
As of last official count Tuesday afternoon, the state recorded more 84,000 confirmed cases and 6,200 deaths.
Khaldun said the Detroit region has about 40 cases per million people per day.