Whitmer Masks

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said unvaccinated state employees will need to mask up. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not considering mandating COVID-19 vaccines for state employees, but unvaccinated workers must wear a mask in the office.

“Our policy is you’re vaccinated or you’re wearing a mask at all times when you’re in the workplace,” Whitmer said Thursday during an editorial board meeting with the Detroit Free Press. “We’re not talking about a mandate at this juncture. I don’t know that we will, but we are continuing to engage with our different units on conversations about how we keep our workplaces safe and our employees safe.”

The governor’s stance is slightly different than the one adopted Thursday by President Joe Biden. He said all federal workers – more than 4 million Americans, including 2 million in the civilian workforce in the U.S. and around the world – must either attest to being fully vaccinated or wear a mask and comply with coronavirus testing.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated will be subject to travel restrictions. In addition, Biden announced all federal personnel and visitors to federal buildings will be required to wear masks.

“As I said from the beginning, a mask is not a political statement,” Biden said. “It’s about protecting yourself and protecting others. Masking is one defense against the spread of COVID-19. But make no mistake, vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from COVID-19. The very best defense. Do you want to know how we put this virus behind us? Well, I’ll tell you how. We need to get more people vaccinated.”

Whitmer guessed more than 65 percent of the approximately 50,000 state employees are vaccinated. While those who are not are required to wear a mask when working in person, there are relatively lax requirements for employees to prove their vaccination status.

“We can’t get the medical records to confirm, but people are attesting whether or not they are. And so we are trusting that,” Whitmer said.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance to recommend everyone – even those who are vaccinated – wear masks in areas of substantial and high transmission rates. While Michigan currently has 11 counties that meet this criterion, Whitmer and health department officials said on Tuesday they are not considering issuing new pandemic orders at this time.

In general, the governor has moved away from instituting new pandemic orders for months despite substantial surges during the spring. Michigan is currently weathering COVID-19 much better than most states, but Whitmer said Thursday she recognizes the delta variant and persistent vaccine hesitancy among some are poised to push Michigan in the wrong direction.

“This delta variant is real, it is serious, it is easy to catch and it is moving across the country. If you look at the national map, we look good compared to everyone else but our rates are going up very, very quickly,” Whitmer said. “It’s a matter of time before we’ve got more delta variant spread. We’re pulling out all the stops to try and get people vaccinated.”

On Tuesday, when the CDC updated its mask guidance, Michigan had 10 counties with high or substantial community transmission rates. As of Thursday, there were 16.

While the governor entertained the idea of state-sponsored incentives for businesses to adopt a vaccine mandate, she noted the unlikely nature of that happening because of the probable need for legislative action.

The GOP-controlled Legislature disapproves of any additional restrictions and would likely never support any state dollars going toward anything that would bolster additional pandemic requirements

“I still have meetings with some of the legislative leaders who say that natural immunity is the same thing as a vaccination,” Whitmer said. “I just share that with in terms of kind of how difficult the environment is to get legislative action.”

Whitmer reiterated that everyone who’s eligible should get vaccinated. As of Thursday, about 54 percent of eligible Michiganders – 4.6 million residents 12 and older – were fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

(1) comment

Rottweiler

She locks the whole State down for months, then blatantly ignores her own guidelines amd now won’t mandate a shot for State workers.,.worst Governor ever!!

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