News Story

Health Departments Threaten Families If School-Related COVID Orders Violated

‘May result in you being taken into protective custody’

The health departments of Allegan and St. Clair counties sent letters to the parents of children exposed to COVID-19 threatening to forcibly remove residents from their dwellings if they did not fully cooperate with their orders.

“You are hereby notified that you are required to cooperate with the Allegan County Health Department,” the letter from the West Michigan agency reads. It further warns that reader that “if you fail to take the actions” the notice calls for, the department will “petition the circuit court to seek an order to compel your compliance, which may result in you being taken into protective custody to protect the public’s health.” Since the letter is addressed to the parents of children rather than the children themselves, it is unclear whether the department anticipates taking either children or parents into custody.

The St. Clair County Health Department issued a similar notice.

State Sen. Aric Nesbitt, whose district includes Allegan County, wrote in an email, “Parents should be in charge of their children, not unelected bureaucrats. This overly aggressive letter is totally unnecessary and she should step down for threatening to take children away from parents.”

When asked about the possibility of removing children from their families and getting the court system involved, Linda Maunz, public health specialist for Allegan’s health department said:

“These quarantine letters have been issued pursuant to statute to individuals identified as close contacts since the start of the pandemic to ensure individuals are aware that they are required to quarantine. Many people need this quarantine documentation for work or school. Our letter also includes education for what to look for as far as symptoms, ensuring basic needs are being met and who to call based on what an individual or family needs. These quarantine letters are part of the standard procedure for stopping the spread of any infectious disease.”

She also noted the families of 3,671 children were sent a quarantine letter during the 2020-21 school year, and no individuals have been petitioned or taken into custody.

Jennifer Michaluk, public information office for the St. Clair County Health Department, was asked what compliance measures must be followed. She stated that one must stay at home until the risk is resolved — and staying at home means no shopping and other activities.

She also noted that the infected person may be contacted daily by a health department representative to monitor symptoms, and officials expect that the monitored person will respond to all communications during the self-isolation period.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 5,110 cases of COVID per 100,000 people in St. Clair County among children 0-17 years of age, according to Michaluk. Eleven children have been hospitalized, which is 0.002% of those infected. No deaths among children have been reported in the area.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.