Courtesy | Facebook
Courtesy | Facebook

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.