Legislature way off base

The idea that local public health agencies during a pandemic should determine the operations of other public agencies and businesses is not only ludicrous but unworkable. The coronavirus doesn't respect political jurisdictions. The idea that 46 local public health departments and their boards of health can individually determine when it's safe for 587 school districts to resume in-person classes and athletics makes no sense. 

In a pandemic, those decisions must be made at state and national levels. A major problem in Michigan is there is no focal point for making public health decisions. In 2015, then-Gov. Rick Snyder combined the State Department of Public Health and the former Department of Social Services into one agency, removing public health as a focal point. 

The water fiasco in Flint should've been a wake-up call that political decisions related to public health can be detrimental to the health of all Michigan residents. The lack of funding for public health over time limits the ability of local public health to respond to the current pandemic. 

Local health departments should do disease testing, monitoring, contact tracing, immunizations, education, counseling and, where appropriate, quarantining — not what the legislature, for political reasons, is proposing. 

Kent L. Gray, Ph.D.

Former local public health director in Michigan

Traverse City

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