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Dickinson-Iron District Health Department rescinds mask order

Update: Gov. Whitmer spokesperson releases statement on language in 2022 state budget
DIDHD logo and a face mask.
DIDHD logo and a face mask.(WLUC/DIDHD)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 2:25 PM EDT
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KINGSFORD AND IRON RIVER, Mich. (WLUC) - Update: Friday, September 24:

Below is a statement sent to TV6 by Governor Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy regarding the language in the fiscal year 2022 budget that could jeopardize funding for the The Dickinson- Iron District Health Department.

“Governor Whitmer has always said that she would protect public health measures that save lives and oppose any attempts to undermine or restrict basic lifesaving actions throughout this pandemic. We are still completing a thorough legal review and will have more to say when the governor signs this legislation next week, but this dangerous language which ties the hands of public health professionals is unconstitutional and the governor will declare it unenforceable. The state of Michigan will not withhold funding from local health departments for implementing universal mask policies or quarantine protocols in local schools that are designed to keep students safe so they can continue learning in person.”

TV6 has asked the DIDHD why it’s rescinding the mask order before any veto announcements. This story will be updated if the DIDHD responds or if there are any further updates.

The Dickinson- Iron District Health Department announced Friday that the mask order for children kindergarten through 6th grade has been “regretfully rescinded”.

“The decision to issue the mask order was not based on a political platform; the decision was based on current local data and guiding public health principles,” stated Daren Deyaert, Health Officer.

Public Health stated that they still feel like this is best option. However, the Health Department was informed on Wednesday, September 22, that language in the fiscal year 2022 budget jeopardizes future health department funding.

The bill (Senate Bill 82) has been approved and Governor Whitmer has indicated that she will sign the bill early next week.

DIDHD’s action comes before Gov. Whitmer has announced any vetoes of the budget.

Earlier this week, said her office was conducting a legal review of the legislation and was aware of likely unenforceable or unconstitutional language that she “will address.’’ He said the governor made clear during negotiations that she would not bar businesses, local health departments and schools from using “all of the tools necessary” to combat COVID-19.

According to Senate Bill 82, section 1222 part 4, any health department that has issued an emergency order in attempt to combat COVID-19 will be negatively impacted. The funds appropriated for essential local public health services will be withheld. Essential local public health services include: immunizations, infectious disease control, sexually transmitted disease control and prevention, hearing screening, vision services, food protection, public water supply, private groundwater supply, and on-site sewage management.

“We understand without this funding, we will lose important programs along with several staff positions. These programs have been a staple in our community for the last 85 years,” stated Deyaert. “It has been a very difficult decision to be forced to choose between what is best for the public’s current health situation vs the future of our essential public health programs that will hopefully continue to serve our community for years to come.”

There still could be mask mandates in the area. That decision falls on local school districts or Dickinson and Iron County Commissioners.

Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) continue to urge the community to mask up, wash your hands, social distance, and get vaccinated when eligible.

In a press release, DIDHD said they have received an “overwhelming amount of support, not only in recent weeks, but since the beginning of the pandemic. Staff have been challenged in many ways, but they have remained dedicated to their mission to protect public health. DIDHD has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic since December of 2019.”

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