Elk Rapids Village Council Passes Resolution Requiring Masks Indoors

"If we’re going to be safe, we need to wear masks." - Village Manager Bill Cooper

Leaders in one Northern Michigan town are backing the idea of wearing a mask inside local businesses–so much so, they’ve passed a resolution requiring it.Elk Rapids Masks 2

The new rule is already in effect in Antrim County’s Village of Elk Rapids. That’s where it started as an idea.

A member of the village council, Mike Toscano, wanted a requirement that masks must be worn at all local businesses. Village Manager Bill Cooper says Toscano suggested it after seeing that “some enforced wearing masks, some didn’t.”

Cooper says the council wanted consistency.

The idea is to protect residents, visitors, and business owners. And ultimately, their businesses.

“We don’t want to end up with an outbreak here that could result in most of the shops and restaurants having to close again. We’d love to avoid that,” Cooper says.

What the resolution doesn’t do, and cannot do, is force you to wear a mask when you’re outside walking down the street. But under the resolution, you should be putting on the mask anytime you’re going indoors to all enclosed spaces open to the public.

While it was first suggested as a village ordinance, Cooper says it became a resolution instead.

“They decided that an ordinance might not be appropriate, since wearing a mask is not necessarily a law. It is a guideline. Recommended, of course, by the CDC and the state and all the key players.  You should be wearing a mask indoors. There’s no punishment if you don’t. Which is kind of where we are today with no way to do more than suggest,” Cooper says.

Enforcement is not going to be easy.

While Elk Rapids can’t control large crowds out in the open at places like Torch Lake, they can push the mask policy indoors.

Cooper admits, “it’s still pretty much up to the individual shop owner if they’re going to force people to do it.  I think that’s why it’s a resolution. As a resolution, in essence, it’s recommended and supported by the council. An ordinance is the equivalent of law at the local level. But without a state law in place or federal law in place, it’s next to impossible for us to pass a law that says you have to do this.”

But Cooper says the resolution has the support of the local police chief and, in theory, police could be called for defiant customers.

“I don’t know that anybody is going to end up getting arrested or hauled away or any of that stuff. But I think if a shop owner wanted that… an officer would have the right to escort them out. Because it’s the shop owner’s shop,” Cooper says.Elk Rapids Masks 1

Shop owners have already started placing signs on their door about the mask rule. At the Chef Charles restaurant, owner Charles Egeler says masks are available free of charge.

“To me, I don’t think it’s a big deal. For some people, it’s just heart-wrenching, ‘taking all my rights away’ kind of thing. I think it’s really a small sacrifice despite what we all believe our rights are.”

Egeler says he doesn’t want masks to be a big issue, but he does support the resolution.

“I have had some people who even went as far as announcing to me, ‘I’ve pledged my life to social disobedience.’ And I said you can do that, but you’re going to do it outside the building and not under my roof.”

Sivan Schondorf is visiting Elk Rapids from the Chicago area. She and her family are wearing masks, even outdoors. She says people here don’t seem to take it as seriously as they do back home.

“Even if there’s a chance it helps protect other people and my family, then I’m going to do it. I just don’t want to see other people getting sick.” She added, “It’s smart because we want to do as much prevention at this point as we can and stop the spread.”

Categories: Coronavirus