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Kent, Ottawa counties will keep school mask order in place

Both counties say the order will remain in effect until it expires on its own terms.

Thursday, health departments for both Kent and Ottawa counties announced they will keep their public health orders in place, including those that mandate masks be worn in schools. 

Both counties say the order will remain in effect until it expires on its own terms.

This comes as local health departments across the state are choosing whether to rescind their mask mandates or keep them in place. 

Thursday afternoon, the Allegan County Health Department chose to rescind their order requiring masks in kindergarten through sixth grade in Allegan County schools. The health department claimed they risked being fined over $1 million due to Senate Bill 82.

The Berrien County Health Department made a similar decision Wednesday, fearing the loss of nearly $1.5 million of their budget. 

However, Ottawa County says the Legislature cannot amend the Public Health Code through the appropriations act. Since it has chosen not to amend the Public Health Code, the appropriations boiler statement has no effect on Ottawa County, its budget, its Public Health Department, or existing public health orders. 

In a statement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office, the office confirmed to Ottawa County that appropriations passed by the state legislature would be funded, including funding for local health departments.

Kent County Administrator Alan G. Vanderberg in a statement Thursday said:

"Questions have been raised about the impact of the boilerplate on Kent County and specifically on the Kent County Health Department and its public health orders that remain in effect. I met with and discussed this matter with our Corporate Counsel Linda Howell. The boilerplate language, the written statement of the Governor, and the Michigan Constitution, the boilerplate have been reviewed and analyzed. The language will have no effect on Kent County, its budget, its Health Department, or existing public health orders."

The current mask mandate issued by Kent and Ottawa County remains in effect until it expires by its own terms (60 days after a vaccine is available for those under 12 or the infection rate drops into the “low range”).

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