GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An order recently signed by a Kent County judge gives the health department the ability to temporarily detain people infected by COVID-19 who cannot or will not self-isolate.
The petition and affidavit was filed by Dr. Adam London, Director of the Kent County Health Department, in the 17th Circuit Court on April 3. The order was signed on April 6 by Kent County Chief Circuit Judge Mark Trusock.
“I think people are analyzing this out of context and really don't understand the entire process," Judge Trusock told FOX 17 Friday morning.
“The law is very specific, that if that order is signed and the person is picked up, they have a right to a hearing within 72 hours, and they have a right to be represented by an attorney at that hearing," Judge Trusock said.
In the filing, the health department requests the ability to have individuals who are deemed a Carrier and Health Threat (CHT) to be involuntarily transported and temporarily detained for observation, testing and/or treatment.
Although no one has yet been detained under the order, Kent County's Corporate Counsel Linda Howell told FOX 17 Friday afternoon that the county is now planning to ask Judge Trusock to reverse the order.
"It was discussed and developed in March, late March, when everything was leading us to believe that we were facing a tsunami of cases coming through,” Howell said Friday.
"It's become clear that in the 10 days this has been in place we've never needed it. We've never needed to use it. We've never even thought about using it. And so I have to give a lot of credit to our planning people, our emergency management people, because through their hard work, they've made this order unnecessary and unused," Howell said.
Howell credits Guiding Light loaning their downtown Grand Rapids building to the county to serve as an isolation center as a major factor in not needing to invoke the order.
The affidavit filed cites Michigan Public Health Code, MCL 333.5207, noting in part, "In an emergency, upon the filing of an affidavit by a Department representative or a local health officer, or a peace officer to take an individual whom the court has reasonable cause to believe is a carrier and a health threat to others into custody and transport the individual to an appropriate emergency care or treatment facility for observation, examination, testing, diagnosis, or treatment and, if determined necessary by the court, temporary detention."
A person in question will be evaluated for "reasonable and probable infection by or exposure to COVID-19" based on guidance from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The order can only be utilized to detain or transport a person if they are deemed likely infected or exposed and there is a reasonable belief "by the Physician or a peace officer, that the individual does not have access to or will not voluntarily use an Isolation Location in which to self-isolate until 72 hours have passed since the person last exhibited a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (without use of fever reducing medication) or is otherwise non-symptomatic or receives a negative COVID-19 test result."
The affidavit states that in the event that someone is failing to cooperate with the guidelines outlined by the health department, they can be transported to a facility designated for detention or treatment. It requests that if no other "Involuntary Isolation Facilities" are available at the time someone is picked up, that they be detained at the Kent County Correctional Facility.
But David Kallman, senior lead counsel at the Great Lakes Justice Center, says the order is far too vague.
“If somebody is out there like a Typhoid Mary, you know, who's trying to infect everybody. I mean, nobody wants that person on the street, they should be detained. Okay. But there is a legal process to do it,” Kallman told FOX 17 Friday.
"To just give this general blanket authority to government officials is unheard of and it's just unconstitutional. It's illegal,” Kallman said.
Kallman told FOX 17 that Great Lakes Justice Center plans to take legal action if Kent County does not reverse the order. Saying, “if they're not going to, you know, remove the order and set it aside, then we already have a couple of plaintiffs. We're going to file suit probably Monday morning.”
The order, as it stands now, states that any involuntary detention would end without any further intervention from the courts once a physician and the Kent County Health Department confirm that the person has not "exhibited a fever higher that 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 72 hours (without the use of fever reducing medication) or otherwise meets the CDC's criteria for release from quarantine or isolation."
If the health department decides somebody needs to be held for longer than 24 hours, they must then file a Petition for Treatment of an Infectious Disease (SCAO Form PC-104). At that point, an "ex-parte hearing" must be held to determine how to proceed.
The order states that a person will be released once they are confirmed not to have a fever over 100.4 Fahrenheit for at least 72 hours or 24 hours from when they are detained if no further order from the court is issued, whichever comes first.
The health department is required to notify the courts by email of anyone held on this order within 24 hours of their detainment.