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  • Don Reid

Case against health agency quarantine now in federal court

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

The federal district court in West Michigan wants both sides to settle a lawsuit filed by Moms for Liberty Branch and Hillsdale Counties that resulted from quarantine mandates issued in September by the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph County.

Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green ordered both sides to appear on Jan. 24 in Grand Rapids for an Early Settlement Conference.

Mothers Jennifer Wortz and Stacy Wohlheter, who have students in Hillsdale County schools, filed the action in Hillsdale County Circuit Court when students exposed to possible cases of COVID-19 were forced by mandates to quarantine and miss school activities.

Circuit Judge Sara Lisznyai refused to issue an injunction. A similar suit was filed in Branch County, where an injunction was issued.

Before either case could be heard, the state legislature put into a budget bill language that if quarantine and mask mandates were in place Oct. 1, all local health agency funding would be withheld or taken back.

The health agency revoked the local order on Sept. 30 rather than risk loss of funds. The Branch County case was dismissed as moot. Those behind the Hillsdale case refused. The health agency then moved the case to federal court. It also filed a motion to dismiss.

Attorney Daren A, Wiseley, representing the mothers, does not want to dismiss the suit even after revoking the mandated order. He said there are constitutional issues regarding how the mandates were applied.

Wiseley agreed.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges in public health, especially in protecting the elderly and most vulnerable," he said. Still, he and the mothers do not view COVID-19 as an imminent danger to all the public. The women do “take the degree of severe illness and death from COVID-19 very seriously," he said.

The mothers are concerned about the impact on children who the virus has not seriously infected.

“We wrestle with the question of how to save lives while balancing the unintended harm done in the process. Plaintiffs have brought this claim in light of that fact. While efforts are made to save lives from the disease, another vulnerable group has been victimized collaterally by overbroad and insufficiently tailored responses, the children," Wiseley said.

On Oct. 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court held unanimously that the Governor had the authority to declare a state of emergency or a state of disaster only once under the Emergency Management Act.

But it did also rule the Emergency Powers Act with its broad authority, combined with the indefinite duration and the lack of precise standards included in the statute, rendered the act unconstitutional.

The suit wants the local health department action also ruled unconstitutional, The suit cites a lack of evidence showing that the students forced to miss band competition had been actually exposed, tested positive, or even showed signs of COVID-129 infection. The suit cites a lack of constitutional due process for quarantine enforcement.

The suit also challenges the lack of scientific evidence that the quarantine as applied effectively stopped the spread of the virus.

The suit also objects to the quarantine for unvaccinated students for 10 days without symptoms. But “for fully vaccinated students wearing a mask, the exposed student can remain in school if they wear a mask and monitor symptoms for 14 days after their exposure.”

Wiseley argues the health agency “should have to provide some type of evidence that there is some factual basis for this rationale. The source of the rationale remains to be seen.”

Wiseley argued, “School-aged children have suffered more than any other group from COVID-19 measures, and yet they are in the safest category of persons.”

Objecting to dismissal, the parents ask the federal court in Kalamazoo to look at the mental and emotional impact on the children.

“The children will never get the opportunities back to spend the lost time with friends, learning in the classroom, or playing in the missed sporting events and concerts. We can only hope the unnecessary suffering these children endure does not continue,” he wrote.

“Plaintiffs understand the need to take health and safety precautions and find it obvious that a sick student should not attend school. Plaintiffs only assert that healthy students are not punished in overbroad and insufficiently tailored action,” he asked for the court to rule.

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