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Michigan health officials concerned with petition that aims to restrict pandemic lockdowns

Ingham County residents see both sides of proposal
Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 10:03 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 11:11 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A new petition aims to make it harder for health departments to respond to pandemics.

Health officials are urging people to think twice before signing it.

The petition comes from the group Unlock Michigan. They’re looking to put more restrictions can be done during a health emergency. While most of Michigan’s COVID restrictions have been lifted, the group wants to make sure they don’t come back without the approval of legislators.

“I think we should leave it all up to the experts,” said Ingham County resident Imelda Maloney.

“I don’t like the lockdowns,” said Ingham County resident Jesse Coupples. “I’m tired of it.”

People in Ingham County are on both sides of the proposal. Maloney said the decisions should stay with health officials, but Coupples said he’s been hurt by the precautions and wants people to be able to make their own decision.

“My entire family had COVID and I know for a fact how severe it is,” Maloney said.

“They put restrictions on a lot of people,” Coupples said. “My son and a lot of other people that do all this help for people, working on cars or whatever.”

Ron Armstrong, with Unlock Michigan, said the proposal isn’t meant to remove authority from the health department, but to give more oversight. Rather than having long shutdowns, they’d be limited to 28 days -- after that, legislatures would have to approve an extension.

They were never made to have powers. They were made to help with health issues and determinations and decisions,” Armstrong said. “They can still make the decision in regards to an emergency. They can declare an emergency. Whether we’re looking at dirty water in Benton Harbor or wherever it happens to be. Whether we’re looking at other issues that create and emergency, if those emergencies are explained to their board.”

Heath experts believe the proposal would be bad news for Michigan residents.

Related: Health experts fear outcome of Unlock Michigan 2.0 petition

“We’ve got a legislative process. You issue and order and it can last 28 days. Can you even get to the legislature to have a conversation, to have some committee meetings and get anything done 28 days later?” asked Ingham County health officer Linda Vail. “I might as well start the process to get an order extended beyond the 28 days at the moment I issue it. But you know what? I prefer to use my scientific judgement and decide whether it needs to be re-issued or not.”

Unlock Michigan has already been successful with a similar proposal. The State Supreme Court deemed a law from 1945 unconstitutional, which ended up blocking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emergency orders.

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