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Whitmer says mask mandates up to local governments and schools

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Whitmer says she’s not considering issuing new statewide public health orders to require new masks or vaccinations.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she is ready to use her veto pen to stop Republican legislation to limit schools and local governments from enacting mask requirements.

As the governor traverses the state to sell her COVID-19 recovery plans, she remains trapped in the present as she’s confronted by a surge in cases.

On Wednesday at an appearance in Detroit, the governor praised school districts and counties that have adopted mask requirements. More than half of Michigan students are covered by in-school mask rules, regardless of vaccination status.

But the governor made clear she is not prepared to issue any statewide mandates.

“There have been a lot of strong feelings on every side of every issue we’ve confronted over the last 18 months,” she said, “but the fact of the matter is these local departments of public health, working very closely with schools, is the best way to get a policy that reflects the parents and the students and the needs of a community.”

And Whitmer said she would veto any legislation, as has been proposed by some GOP Michigan legislators, to forbid unilateral action by local governments.

“I would veto a bill that bans the locals from being able to take action,” she said.

The governor also says she will veto a bill sent to her desk Wednesday that would outlaw using the state’s emergency response network to send updates on COVID-19 orders.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.