Friday, April 19, 2024

County Backs Off After Threatening to Take Parent, Child into ‘Custody’ Over COVID

'It is not our intent for the Allegan County Health Department to be perceived as threatening or promote fear...'

(Scott McClallen, The Center Square) After an Allegan County (Mich.) Health Department letter threatened “to take into protective custody” a parent and child who might have COVID-19, the department is revising the letter and emphasizing their goal is to protect the health of residents.

Taking someone into protective custody is the worst possible scenario that hasn’t happened in the county, Allegan County Public Information Officer Lindsay Maunz told The Center Square in a phone interview.

The letter sparked outrage on social media, and Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, called for the health officer to be fired.

Maunz told The Center Square in a statement that the Aug. 27 letter circulating on social media is a part of a COVID-19 quarantine warning letter issued to individuals identified as a close contact to ensure they’re aware they must quarantine and provide documentation for work or school.

Maunz said the full letter provides more context and helpful information for how long the individual should quarantine, what symptoms to watch for, and provides the phone numbers of health department officials to call for questions and concerns.

“It is not our intent for the Allegan County Health Department to be perceived as threatening or promote fear, because, at the end of the day, we want to help these individuals, these families come through this process of quarantine or isolation because we recognize that this time period is very hard,” Maunz said.

While part of that strong legal language is needed, they’re planning to change the letter to “better help communicate the intended outcome of this letter,” Maunz claimed. “Not to promote fear, but rather to help families know what they need to do in order to help keep their community and the rest of their family safe.”

A three-page brief delineates powers granted to Michigan local health departments under state law, including petitioning a circuit court to order someone to isolate or get tested if that person is reasonably believed to be a carrier of a specific infectious agent or contagious disease.

However, the department said its goal is to protect its residents.

“We’ve never compelled for compliance for the circuit courts, nor has anyone in our county been taken into custody for failure to comply,” Maunz said.

Maunz said the department has received threats, bullying, and harassment via phone and social media in the last week and asked people to be kind.

“It’s been a hard 18 months on all of us, in some way, shape, or form,” Maunz said. “I hope individuals understand that at the end of the day, we are people too, working for the Health Department to provide healthy opportunities and remove barriers to our communities. Our purpose as a department is to strive for a healthier Allegan County. We know that we can’t do that without relying on our community members.”…Original Source

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