COVID-19

Health leaders call for statewide mask mandate

Local ordinances have resulted in threats of violence. Public health officials want the state to take a stand.

The past few months have been difficult for local and regional health officials throughout the state. With COVID-19 rates rising and state officials unwilling to take action, local health officials have been forced to issue mask mandates for their jurisdictions – and take the public backlash that came with them.

Nick Derusha, president of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health, told the Detroit Free Press that the group’s members have gotten complaints, harassment, and even death threats as a result of their efforts to keep people safe.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

A weekday morning email roundup of Kalamazoo stories and events.

“A lot of the public health measures that we know will help keep people safe have been politicized throughout the pandemic — anywhere from vaccinations to wearing masks — and it is bringing out the worst in people,” he said.

That’s prompted the group to pen a letter to the head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) begging for a statewide mandate.

“Leaving COVID-19 control response to local officials has put many of them in professional and personal danger,” reads the letter. “Angry protest mobs in local communities around the state are bullying local officials and preventing them from implementing local mitigation measures.”

In Kalamazoo County, Health Officer Jim Rutherford has faced backlash over his order requiring masks in schools serving kindergarten through sixth graders. Last week, five county commissioners voted against a measure voicing support for Rutherford, with one commissioner calling him a “health dictator.”

[Detroit Free Press, MLive]

Independent journalism is essential to a healthy democracy. Make a donation today.