HILLSDALE COUNTY, Mich. — The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency has issued a public health order requiring anyone in its three-county jurisdiction to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The agency is relying on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Anyone exposed to COVID would have to quarantine for 10 days or for seven days if they have no symptoms and a negative diagnostic test taken five days or more post-exposure.
“We have had a lot of communications especially again today with our schools about kids or staff that have tested positive or have symptoms,” said Health Officer Rebecca Burns. “What are next steps? Who do we need to quarantine? And all that kind of stuff.”
Burns believes numbers are going back up due to more people gathering indoors.
“We are seeing more spread of COVID, especially with the Delta variant. This is not the COVID that we had last school year. This one is more highly contagious,” Burns said.
Hillsdale County has a seven-day positivity rate of 16.6 percent indicating significant community transmission, according to the health department.
Only 16.2 percent of Hillsdale County residents between 12 and 19 years old were fully vaccinated as of the end of August.
The order states that, within one business day, all employers and schools must provide local public health officials the information on all individuals identified as coming in close contact with someone who has COVID, regardless of their vaccination status.
If a person is found to be in violation of these health orders, they may be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of not more than $200 or both. The Community Health Agency says this is enforceable through Part 24 of the Michigan Public Health Code.
“The enforcement will be by situation,” Burns said. “We have to be aware that there’s an issue, first off, and I’m not sure how clear that will be to us that people are or are not quarantining. Then there is a process of review and investigation. Then the next steps would be to work with our corporate counsel to see what steps would be next.”
The public health order does not apply to people without symptoms who were a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 90 days and recovered.
The order does not repeat or replace current state health department or federal epidemic orders. It will remain in place until further notice.
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