Health officials want to enforce masking order at Friske Farm Market, but say they can't

Aug 20, 2020

 

Owners of the nearly 60-years-running business have clashed with local health officials who are seeking compliance on a state executive order.
Credit Friske Farm Market Facebook page

A northern Michigan health department says it’s struggling to make a local market comply with a state executive order. Now the Antrim County store may have also been a COVID-19 exposure site.

Dozens of people called the Health Department of Northwest Michigan to complain that Friske Orchards Farm Market doesn’t require masks, Health Officer Lisa Peacock says.

She says the health department tried to work with the store but eventually issued a public health order on August 1, threatening their license.

The owners of Friske Market responded by filing a lawsuit against the health department and the state.

Co-owner John Friske says he won’t enforce the masking order because he believes it shouldn't be required of businesses.

“It’s really just an impossible position to be put in as a private business to have to refuse service to a given person based on their convictions and beliefs in something,” he says.

Health Officer for Antrim County Lisa Peacock says she’s concerned about the public health risk at the store, but right now her hands are tied.

“We are waiting for further direction from the state, the attorney general, and the governor’s office and MDHHS on enforcement because it does continue to be a problem,” she says.

The health department recently listed the market as a possible COVID-19 public exposure site when someone shopped there on August 13.

Friske says the health department told him the person only shopped for a half an hour and likely had a low risk of transmitting the virus. He says they did not say if the shopper wore a mask. 

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan says it's awaiting legal advice from the state before moving forward.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office says they do not discuss pending litigation.