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COVID-19

Local governments tasked with keeping masks on

After Michigan Supreme Court ruling against Gov. Whitmer's executive orders, local governments are in charge of enforcing new state health department COVID safety measures.

Kalamazoo County’s police and health departments are now the frontline in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, following the state Supreme Court’s invalidation of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s mask mandate and other executive orders.

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an emergency order re-instating mask requirements and limiting the size of bar capacity and other public gatherings. The MDHHS order says violators could face misdemeanor charges that carry penalties up to six months in jail and $200 fines, and civil fines capped at $1,000.

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“The epidemic order will be enforced under the public health code through local law enforcement and local health departments,” said department spokesperson Bob Wheaton. “Local law enforcement may enforce criminal penalties. Local health departments may issue civil administrative citations.”

Local officials were tasked with enforcing the governor’s orders as well, but they had the backing of the state attorney general’s office, which said it could no longer enforce Whitmer’s orders after the court ruling last week.

There’s nothing stopping Kalamazoo County officials from upholding MDHHS orders.

“The department issued the order under authority from the Public Health Code – which gives specific authority to the department to address an epidemic – to continue to keep in place the health measures needed at this time to address this epidemic,” Wheaton said.

On Monday, Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford said the governor’s orders have not yet expired but when they do, he’ll turn to the state health code for authority.