The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency removed all mandatory COVID-19 quarantine orders on Sept. 30 in order to retain state funds.
Health Officer Rebecca Burns’ removal of these orders was a result of the Michigan state legislature’s budget bill. The bill said all local health agency funding would be withheld or taken back if quarantine and mask mandates were still in place by Oct. 1, according to the Hillsdale Daily News. The health agency is alloted approximately $1 million in funds, per their Sept. 30 press release.
“Our budget language is clear, and I’m glad to see local departments taking notice,” Republican state Rep. Andrew Fink said.
The budget received final approval from the legislature on Sept. 24 and was signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Sept. 29. Although Whitmer declared the quarantine and mask mandate-limiting provisions unenforceable, Burns said the agency’s legal counsel has advised the matter stands, unless proven otherwise in a court of law.
“The essential local public health programs that our agency does are too important to the communities we serve to put that funding in jeopardy,” Burns said in a statement to her board. “I continue to believe that people that are exposed to COVID-19 and, like any protection against the virus, need to quarantine to protect the greater community.”
As of now, it is up to individual school districts and employers to determine quarantine and masking protocols.
The bipartisan budget also requires universities and local governments with vaccination policies to include religious and medical exceptions, and prevents the state from enforcing a vaccine mandate.
Per a press release from the Michigan House Republicans, Fink said he was proud to vote for a plan that protects against government overreach into private health decisions.
“By prohibiting vaccine passports and limiting the powers of local health officers, we are restoring the people’s rights to make their own choices about their well-being,” Fink said.