By Sylvia Leigh

July 26, 2021

MDHHS Director encourages schools to require masks for unvaccinated students, mitigation strategies based on transmission levels

Per WXYZ Detroit, on July 22, 2021, MDHHS Director Hertel “joined 7 Action News This Morning to talk all about COVID-19 in Michigan.”

Currently, kids 12 and up are able to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines, which means all kids in elementary schools and parts of middle school are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

“We know that kids under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated, so I would expect and encourage schools when they go back to have mask requirements for kids younger than 12 and those who haven’t been vaccinated,” Hertel said.

Hertel did say that the schools should have different mitigation strategies in place to keep kids safe depending on the level of transmission that they have in the school and in their area.

Ignoring parental outcry, MDHHS is passing the decision to mask unvaccinated children onto local school districts, potentially enlisting local health departments as an enforcement arm to justify further mitigation strategies with transmission data and local orders.  In doing so, MDHHS is dodging legal responsibility and ownership of the mask requirement and mitigation strategies while expressing their expectation others enforce them.

Private and public school district leaders were largely willing to subject children to recommendations and orders from local health departments during the 20/21 school year, even as data increasingly indicated risks to children were minuscule and oppressive mitigation measures were faulty or of little use.  Ottawa County has had zero deaths in children ages 0-19 from Covid-19, while mental health and suicide risks in Ottawa County youth continue to rise.

Per Doug Van Essen, Corporation Counsel for Ottawa County, the Ottawa County Commissioners earned the praise of Michigan’s Attorney General and Governor offices for the County’s aggressive enforcement of rules and regulations against Libertas Christian School. Libertas Christian School sued in federal court to challenge the mask requirements.

Libertas Christian School argued a religious exemption to the mask mandate should be available for religious schools, as it is for churches. On December 1, 2020, the Holland Sentinel reported parents with children attending Libertas, and the church which housed the school, were also at risk of being fined by the Ottawa County Health Department.

In a warning issued to the school earlier in November, the health department said parents could be fined $250 per day for sending their children to the school if the school fails to follow health orders.

“Libertas sometimes hides behind its parents, claiming it cannot control parents. There is shared responsibility here, and that is what the order recognizes,” Ottawa County corporate counsel Doug Van Essen told the Detroit News.

The church the school is associated with, Beaverdam Christian Reformed Church, faces the same fine as landlord to the school, Van Essen said.

“What the county is doing is unprecedented,” the school’s lawyer, Ian Northon, told The News.  “I’ve never seen any other county be so aggressive in the enforcement of these emergency orders.

“This is vindictive. This is retaliatory. It is unfortunate.”

With a historical groundwork of local enforcement and compliance laid, orders from MDHHS itself may be less necessary or desirable for the state agency to handle at this time.  Such orders are now ripe for lawsuits from parents poised to protect their children from masking, social distancing, testing, quarantines, and loss of athletic and significant life events due to not choosing or being eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.  The vaccine remains a medical treatment under emergency authorization for a virus proving to present negligible risk to young people.

On May 27, 2021, after being asked to sign the Resolution to Restore Freedom, which would signal the end of enforcement of unconstitutional health orders in Ottawa County, the Ottawa County Commissioners instead requested Governor Whitmer confirm they lack authority over the County they oversee.  While seemingly content to watch County employees aggressively pursue schools, churches and individuals, it appears the Ottawa County Commissioners are not interested in taking responsibility for or intervening in the enforcement measures of the county employees they are charged with overseeing.

As we head into the next school year, the role of local government, including School Boards and County Commissioners who oversee local Health Departments, has never been more important.  After a year of tyrannical orders, parents and citizens require a return to constitutional freedoms and parental rights, including the lightest hand possible out of local Health Departments in regards to our schools and our children.

Younger members of our County are not at significant risk from the Covid-19 virus, with zero deaths age 0-19, and a recovery rate of over 99% through age 59—which represents over 80% of our County population. Mandated measures of masking children as young as 2 years of age, coerced testing of teen athletes, and quarantining students—with negligible illness surfacing, have negatively affected socio-emotional development and education, and deprived children of positive activities and once-in-a-lifetime events.

Citizens welcome accurate information based on data from local health departments on health risks and available treatments for Covid-19, but do not appreciate health departments pushing the Covid-19 vaccine on residents, businesses, and schools– and especially not on students for whom the virus poses little risk.  As one of Michigan’s most conservative counties, Ottawa County residents require the health department allow individuals to make their own decisions about their own health care and that of their loved ones, and no longer override constitutionally protected rights and freedoms for the potential threat of a virus. 

Parents advocating with school districts throughout the county and state will not permit the intimidation of schools, dual treatment of students and athletes based on medical choices, overriding parental decisions, or the deprivation of our children’s rights and disintegration of their mental health any longer.

The blatant disrespect of parental rights and disregard for our children’s well being from MDHHS, local health departments, and school districts is making the decision to withdraw our children from public schools— which are too quickly becoming radical indoctrination centers, much easier to make.  No matter who issues harmful orders or requirements, parents have had enough.

Sylvia worked in Child Welfare with foster children and families, before having children of her own, and operating a photography business for a decade. In recent years, she has been an advocate for health freedom, parental rights, and education, researching happenings in schools and government, while supporting parents through Informed Parents of Michigan.