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Barry-Eaton health department lifts school mask mandate, even though Whitmer says it doesn't have to

Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 30, 2021

GRAND LEDGE, Mich. — The Barry-Eaton District Health Department is lifting its mask mandate for schools "due to boilerplate language included in the Fiscal 2022 state budget that purports to restrict funding to local health departments with COVID-19 local emergency orders."

That's despite the fact that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that portion of the state budget is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Barry-Eaton Health Officer Colette Scrimger said in a news release that she was lifting both the mask mandate and a second order establishing quarantine and isolation procedures.

“We urge our local school districts and other educational settings to continue to implement universal masking policies and follow quarantine best practices," she said in the news release. "It’s critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 within schools and our communities.”

She said the department will "continue to evaluate the situation and will consider issuing orders in the future as the question of the constitutionality of Senate Bill 82 and House Bill 4400 becomes clearer and if community conditions necessitate such orders.”

Scrimger has faced significant blowback for the mask mandate, which went into effect Sept. 22.

Five Eaton County commissioners, Brian Droscha, Dairus Reynnet, Jim Mott, Barbara Rogers and Brian Lautzenheiser, signed a statement calling for Scrimger to rescind the mandate and resign.

Commissioner Tim Barnes wrote in a Facebook post that he agreed with them and later posted an image of the statement with his signature and that of Commissioner Wayne Ridge added to the bottom.

Last week, a man named Adam Heikkila took to the podium at the Barry Eaton health board meeting and announced, “Colette Scrimger, I am placing you under arrest as a private citizen under a federal felony."

Heikkila and his supporters then called on the officers in the room to arrest Scrimger, though she was able to leave the meeting.

Whitmer signed the $70 billion budget on Wednesday.

She same day, she wrote in a letter to lawmakers that "The legislature cannot unwind the Public Health Code in a budget bill or unappropriate funds because they take issue with the actions of local health departments."

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