Michigan’s three-county health department cancels COVID warrants over fear of losing $ 1 million in public funds

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COLDWATER, MI – A statement from Branch-Hillsdale-St. The Joseph Community Health Agency said Thursday it was forced to reverse recent public health orders or could lose $ 1 million in state funding.

The Tri-County Health Agency said its Sept. 22 health ordinance requiring employers, educational institutions and people in Branch, Hillsdale and St. Joseph counties to quarantine themselves after close contact exposure with someone infected with COVID-19 will be canceled as of 11:59 p.m., September 30.

Related: West Michigan Health Department cancels order for K-6 masks, citing fears of losing $ 1 million in funding

A press release from the agency says the decision was made after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the 2022 state finance bill on Wednesday, which contained language threatening to lose funding for public health services essential premises.

According to the wording of Senate Bill 82 and House Bill 4400, any health worker who has an emergency order under Article 2453 of the Public Health Code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.2453, effective October 1, will lose this funding.

Although Whitmer said after the bill was signed that the language was unconstitutional, the agency’s legal counsel said it was being held until proven otherwise in court.

“The branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency cannot risk losing this vital local public funding that supports vital community programs and services, including vaccinations, infectious disease control, sexually transmitted disease control and prevention, screening hearing, vision services, food protection, public water supply, private groundwater supply and on-site wastewater management, ”said an agency statement.

Related: COVID data for Thursday, September 30: Michigan cases up 3 months as most states see declines

The department points out in the statement that while local health departments are unable to issue public health orders to protect against COVID-19 without compromising funding, businesses, educational institutions, and Individuals may institute mitigating factors that help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. .

This may include quarantining people who have had close contact, requiring masks to be worn indoors, keeping sick people at home and vaccinations when they are eligible, the statement said.

“I am particularly concerned about children who remain unprotected against COVID-19 because they are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Rebecca Burns, the agency’s health manager. “Michigan local health departments must choose between protecting individuals from the threat of COVID-19 and future funding of essential local public health programs.

“We make these decisions with deep concern for the health of our communities. “

Burns points out that under the Michigan Public Health Code, local public health officials are authorized to “take action and make decisions necessary or appropriate to perform the duties of local health departments to protect public health and prevent disease ”.

Branch, Hillsdale and St. Joseph counties experienced high and continuous transmission of COVID-19 from mid-July through early August, she said.

The health department advises people to wear masks in indoor public spaces, stay at home and get tested when showing symptoms of COVID-19, and self-quarantine after being in close contact with it. someone with COVID-19.

“Mitigation measures work to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. H. Lauren Vogel, the agency’s medical director. “Studies have been done and the science is clear that wearing a mask, testing for symptoms, getting vaccinations and staying home after exposure are essential actions anyone can take. to prevent disease.

“By working together, we can put COVID-19 behind us and get back to life as we remembered it before the pandemic. “

For more information, visit www.bhsj.org.

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