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In this Aug. 19, 2020, file photo, a healthcare worker sits at the entrance to a free COVID-19 testing site at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

(The Center Square) – An Allegan County Health Department letter widely circulated on social media threatens to get a court order to take a parent and/or child who could be infected with COVID-19 into “protective custody to protect the public health.”

Allegan County Health Department Lettter

A screenshot of a letter from The Allegan County Health Department.

The letter notifies a parent their child is “a close contact to a COVID-19 positive individual” and orders cooperation with the department.

“If you fail to take the actions prescribed in this warning notice, the Allegan County Health Department shall petition the circuit court to seek an order to compel your compliance, which may result in you being taken into protective custody to protect the public’s health,” the letter reads.

The letter contains threats to take the child into protective custody “to protect the public health” and continues: “Should any non-compliant behavior create an emergency situation where he/she becomes a health threat to others, an immediate court order shall be sought pursuant to Michigan Law MCL 333.5207. Upon issuance of this court order, he/she may be taken into protective custody to protect the public health.”

The Allegan County Health Department hasn’t responded to a request for comment.

Conservative political consultant Fred Wszolek tweeted the letter justifies Unlock Michigan’s petition drive to change the public health code to limit epidemic orders to 28 days. After that, public health officials would need the approval of an extension from the legislature or local governing bodies.

“Instead of approaching the parents with concern & compassion, the notice deems their child a ‘carrier'," Wszolek tweeted. "Before telling the parents how to care for their child, it threatens to take the child and/or parents into ‘protective custody’ if their demands aren’t met.”

Wszolek also led the petition drive to revoke Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 1945 pandemic powers.

“These are the ‘public health experts’ ruling Michigan by decree, issuing orders with no limits, no deadlines, & no accountability. This is what Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan has become: faceless bureaucrats hurling threats at the taxpayers they serve. THIS ALL ENDS with #Unlock2.”

Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, said the letter was a step too far.

“Now the Allegan County Health Director is threatening to take parents to court if the department has ‘reasonable belief’ that their child has been exposed to COVID-19 and they don't follow her every order,” he posted on Facebook.

“This could include actions by the county to take that child away from the parents and into the government's custody. Allegan's County Commission needs to step up and fire this reckless and tyrannical health director for threatening to take away people's kids for possibly coming in close contact with someone who had COVID. This absolutely should not be happening in Allegan County.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.