Quarantine letter ‘threatening’ protective custody sparks outrage

ALLEGAN, Michigan (WOOD) – Allegan County’s health officials are picking up the heat once again when it comes to protocol surrounding children and coronavirus.

The recent debate has to do with a letter regularly sent to parents whose child has been identified as being in close contact with someone with COVID-19 informing them of the required quarantine protocol.

The controversy comes in the third paragraph of the three-page letter, which states that failure to follow the quarantine protocol could put your child at risk of protective custody.

“If you fail to take the action set out in this warning, the Allegan County Health Department may petition the District Court for an order to enforce compliance, which could result in your being held in protective custody for the protection of public health ( MCL.). 333.5205), “it says in the letter.

Allegan County COVID-19 close contact letter

Parents on social media have language issues and phoned the letter as a threat.

News 8 took these concerns straight to the source and spoke one-on-one with Allegan County’s health officer Angelique Joynes.

“We had a couple of calls because people thought the language might be a little intense,” said Joynes. “But that’s really not our intention. Our intention is to officially inform individuals that they need to be quarantined, so that’s part of the letter. “

According to the health department, 3,671 school-age children were quarantined because of known exposure to COVID-19 and received a quarantine letter in the 2020-2021 school year. None of them were requested or taken into protective custody.

The letter recently began circulating on social media and sparked outrage among many parents across West Michigan.

Michigan State Representative Steve Johnson posted a photo of the letter on Facebook. He says it was sent to him by one of his constituents who raised concerns after receiving the August 27 letter.

Johnson says the letter is problematic and asks the county board to dismiss Joynes as health officer.

“It’s very threatening, and really, one of the biggest threats is that the government is threatening to steal a child from a parent,” Johnson told News 8. “So the letter basically started with these threats (which it says), us will do so if you don’t stick to it. “

Despite the concern and criticism, Joynes has no intention of removing this part of the letter. However, it is open to further explanation.

“We sent it to a lawyer and asked if there was any way we could make it clearer so people would know what our intention is and that it’s not about taking children away,” she said.

Joynes also wants to make it clear that it is ultimately up to the courts to decide whether a child should be placed in protective custody.

“We only have the authority to file an application with the court,” she said. “But we cannot decide whether someone is taken into protective custody or not, the courts have to decide that.”

When asked if there was a situation where she would apply to the court to put a child in protective custody for failing to comply, Joynes was unable to give a definitive answer.

“I’m not going to talk about it,” she said.

A spokesman for Allegan County’s Department of Health said the language used in the quarantine letter was used in pre-COVID-19 pandemic situations. She said warning letters have been issued for other infectious diseases such as chickenpox, which are at high risk of spreading.

“I can’t speak to other health departments, but I believe other health departments are using similar quarantine letters,” Joynes said.

News 8 reviewed the Order of the Kent Ministry of Health for quarantine and isolation due to educational settlement, but found no mention of court filings or protective custody.

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