U.P. health dept. rescinds mask mandate

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department (DIDHD) rescinded an order Friday that would have required masks for children in kindergarten through sixth grade to avoid the possibility of lost funding.

“The decision to issue the mask order was not based on a political platform; the decision was based on current local data and guiding public health principles,” said Daren Deyaert, DIDHD Health Officer in a press release issued Friday. “The decision came after exhausting all other options while considering public health’s best interest.”

According to the release, the health department still feels the mandate is “the best option,” but it was informed Wednesday the 2022 state budget bill included language that would jeopardize future finding for the department if the mandate remained in place.

According to Senate Bill 82, section 1222 part 4, any health department that has issued an emergency order in attempt to combat COVID-19 will be negatively impacted by having funds for essential local public health services withheld. These services include immunizations, infectious disease control, sexually transmitted disease control and prevention, hearing screening, vision services, food protection, public water supply, private groundwater supply, and on-site sewage management.

The bill was approved by the senate and Governor Gretchen Whitmer has indicated she will sign it into law early next week.

“We understand without this funding, we will lose important programs along with several staff positions. These programs have been a staple in our community for the last 85 years,” said Deyaert. “It has been a very difficult decision to be forced to choose between what is best for the public’s current health situation vs the future of our ­essential public health programs that will hopefully continue to serve our community for years to come.”

A mask mandate could still be put in place for school-aged children, but the decision would need to be made by the local school district or by a majority roll call vote of the county commissioners from both Dickinson and Iron counties.

The Marquette County Health Department issued a similar mask mandate for children in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade on Sept. 22. That order took effect Thursday, and, as of press time Friday, the order has not been rescinded.


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