President Donald Trump talks to journalists as he departs the White House May 05, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
Michigan’s attorney general said Wednesday that President Donald Trump has a “legal responsibility” — under state law — to wear a mask as a coronavirus precaution when he visits a Ford Motor Co. factory Thursday.
In an open letter to Trump, who so far has refused to wear a mask, Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote, “I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford — and across this state — by wearing a facial covering.”
Ford, whose Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti is set to host Trump on Thursday, has a policy of requiring masks there. The company said it has informed the White House about that policy.
But Ford also said Tuesday, “The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination” about whether Trump and his party will wear masks during the visit.
Ford twice this week has briefly shuttered plants elsewhere after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Asked Tuesday by reporters if he would wear a mask at the Ford facility, Trump at first said, “I don’t know.”
“It depends. In certain areas I would,” the president said. “So, we’ll see. Where it’s appropriate, I will.”
But Nessel, in her letter to Trump, wrote that the mask requirement “is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders.”
“It is currently the law of this State.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Nessel’s letter, which referenced the fact that a personal valet at the White House who served Trump recently tested positive for Covid-19. The president has repeatedly tested negative for the virus.
The letter said, “Michigan has been hit especially hard by the virus, with more than 50,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 deaths.”
“Anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of the United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus,” Nessel wrote.
Attorney Dana Nessel, surrounded by her family, announces her bid for Michigan Attorney General in Braun Court Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Mandi Wright | Detroit Free Press | Tribune News Service via Getty Images
The attorney general’s letter also noted that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently issued an executive order requiring that manufacturing facilities in Michigan “suspend all non-essential in-person visits, including tours.”
The order also requires such facilities to screen workers and other people entering the job site, and people in a work site be “kept at least six feet from one another to the maximum extent possible,” the letter noted.
And, the order “requires that any individual able to medically tolerate a facial covering wear one when in any enclosed public space,” the letter said.
Nessel told Trump in the letter that “while my Department will not act to prevent you from touring Ford’s plant, I ask that while you are on tour” he wear a mask.
Ford closed and then reopened its Chicago Assembly plant within less than 24 hours after two workers there tested positive for the coronavirus, the company said Wednesday.
The brief closure was the first time a plant had been shuttered for that reason since Detroit automakers began reopening their large North American assembly plants on Monday.
Those facilities shut down in March to protect workers and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Ford said that the company had temporarily closed its Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant after a worker tested positive for Covid-19.
Ford said it expected to restart the Dearborn facility later Wednesday.
Trump has consistently resisted pressure to wear a mask even despite federal health officials urging all Americans to wear facial coverings when going out into public and being unable to maintain a six-foot distance from others.
White House staffers were instructed last week that they had to wear masks or facial coverings when entering the West Wing of that building.
Trump did not wear a mask during a visit in early May to a Honeywell factory in Phoenix that is making N95 masks. A sign at that factory says that masks are required for people in the facility.
Pence wore a face mask in late April during a visit to a General Motors ventilator factory in Indiana, which requires masks to be worn.
But just days earlier, Pence did not wear one for a tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, which likewise requires masks for all visitors, staff and patients.