HAVLICEK: Businesses caught in the crossfire

Masks have become an increasingly contentious issue since the start of this pandemic. Public discourse regarding the topic has escalated to a point where we at the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber feel compelled to speak out. Our message to consumers on the topic is a simple one: Don’t take your frustrations out on businesses.

Gov. Whitmer recently issued two new executive orders (2020-147 and 2020-153) requiring Michiganders to wear a mask in public spaces — both indoors and out.

Most notably, the orders require any business that is open to the public to refuse entry or service to anyone who refuses to wear a face covering. If a state department or agency learns that a licensee (business) is in violation of this section, they can and will suspend the business’s license to operate.

For months, businesses have been struggling to survive. They have worked tirelessly to keep up with a maelstrom of mandates spread across an excessive number of executive orders. They have had to make tough choices resulting in the cancellation of cherished traditions or the termination of valued staff. They have had to find ways to make ends meet for their business and to put food on the table for their family.

As if that weren’t enough, they have had to deal with numerous customers shouting, ranting and even shaming them over their handling of the mask issue. With this latest executive order, we have seen the number of these instances increase.

Regardless of where you fall in the mask debate, or whether you agree or disagree with the governor’s mandate, there is one thing everyone can and should agree upon: Businesses did not create this situation, nor do they want to be charged with policing it. Not one of them appreciates being caught in the crossfire of serving their customers and enforcing the latest order. Not one of them can afford to risk losing their job, their business license, or you as their valued customer.

If you would like to voice your frustration regarding the mask rule, call Gov. Whitmer’s constituent services line at (517) 335-7858. If you have any questions regarding the rule, or this article, I’ll offer my direct line as well: (269) 757-0216.

Businesses are doing everything they can to stay safe, stay in compliance, and stay open. To support them, we must also be vigilant and do our part to stop the spread of the virus. Going back to phase three would be a devastating blow to Michigan’s economy and would signal the point of no return for many local businesses who are already on the brink of closure.

We hope you’ll join us in doing everything within our power to keep this from happening and in providing support and encouragement to our local businesses whenever possible.

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