AG urges workers to wear homemade masks due to shortages, asks police to work with businesses

By: - April 27, 2020 10:18 am

Masks sewn by Jan Ruvido Stebbins | Laina G. Stebbins

Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging employees who work in public settings like restaurants and grocery stores to use their own face coverings to protect themselves until their employer can provide them.

This comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Friday requiring all businesses to provide their employees with non-medical grade face coverings if they work with the public. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month began recommending face mask use in public.

Whitmer’s order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Dana Nessel | Ken Coleman

However, appropriate face coverings are in high demand and short supply, which Nessel addressed in a news release on Sunday.

“I know many business owners around the state are working hard to reopen and comply with the Governor’s Executive Order. Securing appropriate face coverings by the Monday deadline, though, appears to be a difficult task for some businesses given limited supplies,” said Nessel.

Because of that, Nessel has asked law enforcement agencies across the state to consider the good-faith efforts of businesses that have tried but have been unsuccessful in obtaining face coverings when deciding whether to take criminal enforcement action against a non-compliant business.

“The Governor’s order requires that each of us — businesses and employees — work together to safely and successfully reopen our economy.  We appreciate the cooperation of law enforcement, employers and employees as we strive to carefully and thoughtfully reopen our state, one step at a time.”

Friday’s executive order also requires people to wear homemade face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces, as previously reported by the Advance

Whitmer issued another executive order Sunday that outlines strategies that grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies must take to reduce the possibility of exposing their customers to COVID-19.

That includes requiring cashiers to wear some form of face covering over their nose and mouth, ensuring employees and customers stay at least 6 feet apart from one another, closing salad bars and eliminating free samples and tasting stations.

The order requires stores to clean and disinfect frequent touchpoints like PIN pads at cash registers, shopping carts and shopping baskets, as well as prohibits sick employees from working and sending them home if they show symptoms of COVID-19.  

Employees who fall within a vulnerable population also should be accommodated by providing lower-exposure work assignments or giving them the option to take an unpaid leave of absence with a return date coinciding with the end of the states of emergency and disaster, and developing and implementing a daily screening program before their shift. 

Grocery stores and pharmacies must set aside at least two hours per week of shopping time for vulnerable populations. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the establishment must notify other employees without infringing on private health information of an employee.

“While Michiganders fight this virus, we must continue to take aggressive action to reduce exposure and prevent a second spike in cases,” said Whitmer. “This is not the time to slow our efforts; we must continue to be smart. By establishing these guidelines, we can protect Michigan families and our frontline workers. When we come together, we can slow the spread of this virus and save lives.”

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Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak

Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.