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Face mask mandate proclaimed with emergency alarm spurs bill to end practice

“We must reserve the use of our state’s emergency alert system for true emergencies,’’ state Rep. Bradley Slagh said of his recently-introduced bill.

LANSING, Mich. — An emergency alert that sounded on cellphones across Michigan last month announcing mask mandates from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer caused state Rep. Bradley Slagh’s phone to light up – but for a different reason.

“Within the space of a few hours, I heard from multiple constituents asking, ‘what in the world is going on,’’’ said Slagh, R-Zeeland.

He says using Michigan’s emergency alert system to announce executive orders is not a good idea and should stop.

“An overuse of the emergency system for non-emergencies sets a dangerous precedent because it will likely cause people to become numb to legitimate emergency alerts – the proverbial ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation,’’ he said.

Slagh recently introduced a bill he says would require Michigan’s emergency alert system to be used only by first responders to prevent immediate or nearly immediate loss of life and property.

Appropriate uses include alerting the public to acts of terrorism, unresolved mass shootings, natural disasters, industrial explosions, train derailments and announcements of missing endangered individuals.

“We must reserve the use of our state’s emergency alert system for true emergencies,’’ Slagh said. “We must preserve the integrity of the system so it is as effective as possible when it’s truly needed.’’

House Bill No. 6100 follows a July 13 emergency alert from the governor’s office.

The afternoon alert read: Fight COVID by wearing a mask. Michiganders are REQUIRED by executive order to wear face coverings in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. Businesses must refuse entry or service to those who do not wear a face covering (with limited exceptions).’’

The message concluded: More info: Michigan.gov/MaskUp.

Slagh said he talked with people who said they planned to turn off the emergency notification alarm on their phones because of the mid-July mask alert.

“It’s not about this pandemic or this governor,’’ Slagh said. “The thought process is how do we use the emergency alert system for exactly what it’s designed for and not for multiple other things.’’

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations.

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