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Kent County Board of Commissioners sought legal second opinions after public health officer mandated Pre-K through 6th grade students wear masks

Kent County
County of Kent, Michigan
Kent County seal

The Kent County’s Board of Commissioners sought legal second opinions after the county’s public health officer required young students wear masks in school.

Dr. Adam London, Kent County’s Administrative Health Officer, issued a public health order August 20th requiring Pre-K through 6th grade students wear masks in classroom settings. The mandate came down two days after the county’s COVID-19 risk level has been elevated from “substantial” to “high.”

Six days later, during a public comment session at DeVos Place, approximately 150 parents expressed their decision-making rights were violated and questioned the role of government. At that time, the commissioners made it clear they did not have the authority to overturn the order.

However, Wednesday, the Kent County Board of Commissioners revealed it enlisted its in-house legal team – and – sought a second opinion from outside legal counsel at Warner Norcross & Judd.

In a news release, the county announced, “Both opinions concluded that neither the Kent County Board of Commissioners nor the County Administrator/Controller have the authority to intervene in the health officer’s performance of his statutory duties under Michigan’s Public Health Code.”

The board also is prohibited from removing the public health officer, rescinding the order or defunding the health department.

As for the face covering decision, Dr. London identified an emerging virus surge. In early July the positivity rate in Kent County was 1.5% with 71 cases. The week the public health order was declared it had accelerated to 10% positivity and 797 cases. One week later the positivity rate climbed to 12% and cases escalated to 1,207.

Dr. London explained the mask mandate is designed to protect students under the age of 12 ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines and reduces virus transmission in schools minimizing the interruption of in-person learning.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.