St. Clair County commissioners may soon take a formal stance on some forms of COVID-19 health orders — at least, on paper — after asking the county’s attorney to look at language for a health and welfare resolution this week.
But officials said they aren’t sure yet what that measure will look like and that, whatever it includes, it won’t supersede existing state or federal rules.
After well more than two hours of public comment at county board meeting Thursday, where plenty of residents were against broad mandates for things like masks or vaccines, Chairman Jeff Bohm said they would just be making a statement rather than enforcing a new rule of law.
“Resolutions, they’re not binding. We can pass a resolution saying we want to tell all the employers of St. Clair (County) they can’t have mask mandates. (But we cannot force) an employer if they want to have a mask mandate,” he said. “These resolutions are purely political statements essentially being made by commissioners.”
Bohm elaborated on the issue when asked early Friday, adding county-level boards taking steps against some mandates is something not unique to St. Clair County.
He compared it to the measure passed by the board in early 2020 supporting Second Amendment gun rights after similar resolutions swept counties statewide.
Gary Fletcher, the county’s attorney, said they will draft a resolution that was specific to St. Clair County. He told commissioners Thursday, “It needs to reflect what you want, not what I want.”
He also emphasizes Bohm’s point — that it would be a statement.
“The health department makes the calls on public health orders and issues of public safety,” Fletcher said. “That’s been decided by the courts.”
Commissioners did not get specific about their preferences on Thursday, though officials said they expected it to be an ongoing discussion.
What could a COVID resolution include?
The resolution discussion follows several weeks of pushback from residents, particularly parents with kids in school, about the county health department quarantine order.
That order was ultimately rescinded by Oct. 1 but garnered hundreds of meeting attendees Thursday with many expressing continued concern over the idea of mandates in general. Several said they supported the idea of a general welfare resolution, while a few did not.
When asked where the resolution idea came from, Commissioner Dave Rushing, who advocated for altering the local quarantine order, pointed to other resolutions adopted in the state where board officials publicly took stances against mandates.
Grand Traverse County passed a resolution banning vaccine mandates and requiring proof of COVID testing for employees in August, while Huron County’s board passed one on the employee immunization requirement a few weeks later.
Rushing said the employee mandate was an example of something he’d support including in a St. Clair County resolution because he thought “it’d be harmful to the county if we did that.”
However, he said supporting a welfare resolution didn’t mean he was against all public health orders related to the coronavirus.
“I do not object to a quarantine order. If you’re sick and you have symptoms and test positive, I support that. What I don’t support is people who aren’t getting the same rights,” Rushing said.
He was referencing the county’s rescinded quarantine rules that required unvaccinated people who weren’t necessarily visibly sick or symptomatic to stay home for up to 10 days if they were identified as a close COVID contact. Those who are vaccinated were not required to quarantine.
Rushing said he expected some sort of hybrid of the resolutions they’ve already seen.
Bohm said he thought “some of that language is government interference” in other resolutions, but he admitted, “I’m not a mandate guy. I’ll be the first to tell you that.”
“We’ll see what they come up with,” the board chairman said Friday.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter