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Baraga County won’t enforce coronavirus rules, but state agencies will

The county sheriff, prosecutor, clerk, treasurer and board members signed a ceremonial document Monday.
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:43 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:57 PM EST
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L’ANSE, Mich. (WLUC) - While Baraga County elected leaders say they won’t enforce Michigan’s coronavirus restrictions, the state still has full authority to penalize businesses who aren’t following existing orders backed by scientists at the state health department.

The Baraga County sheriff, prosecutor, clerk, treasurer and board members signed a ceremonial document Monday which says they will “take no action whatsoever” to support restrictions from the state to slow coronavirus spread. The Baraga County leaders claim the current rules are the worst restrictions on anyone “in North America since the days of King George III and the American Revolution.”

Posted by Joe Brogan for Baraga County Sheriff on Monday, January 11, 2021

According to Baraga County Sheriff Joe Brogan, the letter to the state government was created to protect the rights of his people.

“There was a petition going around signed by members of this community asking that we take a position,” said Brogan.

He emphasized the “Baraga County Manifesto” is an opinion of the elected officials of Baraga County. He also said the document makes people feel like their county is standing up for them.

“We’re not saying that the pandemic isn’t important,” added Brogan. “We just believe that everybody should make their own choices.”

It appears Baraga County has not been enforcing the current state order which bans indoor dining through Friday. It’s unclear what will be in the state health department’s next coronavirus order, but multiple sources say indoor dining won’t return until Feb. 1.

State agencies can still pull liquor licenses and fine businesses in Baraga County.

TV6 reached out to the MDHHS for more information about the Baraga County document.

“Public health protections instituted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have led to decreased case counts and fewer hospitalizations, and ultimately saved lives of Michiganders across the state including in Baraga County,” said Lynn Sutfin with the MDHHS. “And although we have made progress and a safe and effective vaccine is now being distributed as quickly as possible, these protections remain necessary to protect frontline workers and Michiganders everywhere from the spread of COVID-19 so that we can eradicate this pandemic.”

Sutfin continued, “The [MDHHS] director’s actions rest firmly on epidemic powers given by the Legislature to the director of the MDHHS after the Spanish Flu a century ago. Michigan courts have consistently upheld the department’s authority to implement these protections in order to save lives and eliminate this pandemic. We all want to return to our normal way of life, and now the safe and effective vaccine shows us that is possible. The sooner Michiganders put a pause on indoor social gatherings and wear their masks properly the more lives we will save, the sooner we will be able eradicate and eliminate COVID-19, and return to normal life.”

Baraga County has the highest coronavirus death rate in Michigan based on population. The county, with about 8,900 residents, has 29 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 476 confirmed cases.

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