Michigan County Votes to Restrict Health Department Messages on Vaccines | Don’t miss it
TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan – Amid an increase in the Delta variant of COVID-19, elected officials in a northern Michigan community passed a resolution banning mandatory vaccines and proof of COVID testing for employees and restricting messages disseminated by the county health department.
Information from the Grand Traverse County Health Department must now encourage people to talk to their health care provider about the risks and benefits associated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
The resolution in favor of vaccine awareness and medical autonomy was passed Wednesday by 5-1.
In the crowded and mostly maskless committee meeting room, 45 people took to the podium, most of them in favor of the resolution presented by Board Chairman Rob Hentschel.
Those who supported him said that the US Constitution guarantees citizens the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any warrant that requires someone to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test violates those rights, they said.
Mary Orr drew applause from the audience after quoting the last word from the movie “Braveheart”.
“Freedom is what it is about,” Orr said.
Many supporters who say they do not trust scientists or the media have presented misinformation about the vaccine that has been widely debunked by the scientific community.
Those who opposed the resolution called it dangerous, a ridiculous waste of time, and beyond the reach of board members who are not health experts.
Carl Ketchum questioned the constitutionality of the resolution and said what health services are doing to mitigate the pandemic is working.
“The game isn’t over, but why are you putting your team’s first batter on the bench? Ketchum asked the commissioners.
In recent weeks, health officials have seen what they fear is the start of a spike in cases caused by the Delta variant among the unvaccinated in the northern parts of Michigan, where the health department county oversees public health.
Many said the plan to send the resolution to every county commissioner in the United States was a waste of taxpayer dollars. Hentschel said the county was in the process of obtaining email addresses for Michigan and United States commissioners from established associations. If the lists are not available, he has 50 volunteers ready to each take a report and get the information.
There was no movement underway in the county to enact a vaccination mandate, but Hentschel said he wrote the resolution in response to federal and other mandates requiring employees to be vaccinated. He was also provoked by two people who told him that members of his family had suffered significant adverse reactions to the vaccines.
“I know this is the exception,” Hentschel said, adding that the media has a bias in reporting these kinds of complications. “By far most people don’t have a problem with that, but some people do.”
He said he realized that each person’s medical situation is unique and sacred between an individual and their health care provider. The resolution does not tell the health ministry it cannot do its job, he said.
“They can still promote vaccines,” but they should also encourage people to talk to their own doctors, do some research and find out what’s right for them, he said.
The resolution was not motivated by a desire to run for a higher position, nor does it try to appease a group, Hentschel said.
County commissioner Betsy Coffia said when there is a public health crisis people turn to those with the expertise to handle it.
“I don’t have the expertise,” Coffia said. “To my knowledge, no one on this council has a degree in epidemiology or public health management.”
Until this point in the pandemic, the board has supported the health service, respectful of its expertise, and has not dictated what it can and cannot do, she said.
“We’re crossing that line now and I think we should be honest about it,” Coffia said. “We go in now and say to the health department, no matter what happens with the variant, no matter what happens if we have another peak, you won’t make these recommendations, you won’t do this and that. “
Coffia said he received an email from Munson Healthcare – the region’s largest hospital system – indicating that he did not support the resolution.