By Jessica Mathews /

A subcommittee of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution that would no longer require mandatory face coverings for people visiting Livingston County facilities.

The resolution comes in the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling last week that struck down emergency rules issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued additional orders reinstituting the restrictions that were negated by the court ruling. That included mask rules and requires schools to notify the public of infections. Gordon asserted that, "The science is clear: wearing masks can reduce the chance of transmitting COVID by about 70%. Even with masks, transmission is likeliest when people are within 6 feet of each other for 15 minutes, especially indoors." Regardless, the court ruling has led to confusion about mask requirements and business rules, with some communities considering eliminating requirements.

Livingston County Administrator Nathan Burd tells WHMI a resolution was introduced by Commissioner Wes Nakagiri on Monday during the General Government Committee meeting. He says it would rescind the mandatory use of face coverings for visitors to county-owned governmental facilities. Burd says it will be on the Board of Commissioners meeting agenda on Tuesday, October 13th. He noted no other changes to the Livingston County COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan are currently under consideration.

The committee consists of Wes Nakagiri, William Green, Kate Lawrence and Jay Gross. Nakgiri said on a 4-0 vote, the committee voted to send the resolution to the full board for consideration. He noted the board earlier this year approved a wide-ranging plan to address the COVID crisis. In addition to the mandated use of face coverings, he says the plan included requirements for social distancing, limiting the number of persons in common spaces, encouraging employees to remain in their assigned work areas as much as possible, implementing telework, use of video conferencing, increased cleaning and sanitizing, installation of physical barriers, health monitoring, flexible leave and actively encouraging sick employees to stay home among others. He noted the board also approved the hiring of a new epidemiologist and approved increased funding for COVID mitigation. Nakagiri asserts those mitigation techniques, along with the strong participation of citizens, have effectively "flattened the curve" in Livingston County. He stressed that eliminating the mandate doesn't prevent a citizen from voluntarily choosing to use a face covering and the resolution encourages citizens to voluntarily comply with guidelines established to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The decision, if implemented, would contradict the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention advisory that wearing a cloth face covering is a "a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities. There is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others."

A copy of Nakagiri’s full comments is attached, along with the resolution that will be up for consideration at Tuesday night’s meeting.