Health Department Closed Eleven Straight Days in the Midst of a Pandemic

The local district health department (DHD #10) wasn't as busy as many during the early parts of the Covid-19 pandemic.  When the novel coronavirus was wreaking havoc in certain areas of the country in the spring and summer of 2020, some counties in the 10 county district didn't experience any Covid-19 related deaths until autumn.  Records indicate that Mason County had its first death in mid-October, that total has grown to 17 on the latest stats.  

The resurgence has left the district experiencing a high level of cases that have pushed this rural district into a hotbed of cases, the 'heat' map below shows that Oceana County has no townships colored the relatively safe shades of green, Mason County is mostly yellow and orange, signifying a noticeable spread in those townships and cities.  

Moving from a mostly green map to a mostly yellow-orange-red map signifies that Covid-19 has came into the region with a vengeance this fall.  The map of local hospitalizations show throughout the district that inpatients at hospitals are testing for Covid-19 at a very high rate in December when compared to a mild summer.

Likewise, the cases in most of the ten counties are experiencing record numbers for the area in this last month.  The DHD#10 Coronavirus page has all of this data thereon, one can slide across the dates below and compare the recent case numbers with prior weeks.

Thus, it would be hard to deny that this district is experiencing the worst of the coronavirus at this point in the ten months of the declared pandemic.  It's also a fact that the DHD system is ran by the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) who is currently administrating the 'emergency orders' that have forced businesses to close and threaten 6 months in jail for violators.  

Another fact:  In the midst of a ravaging pandemic, the administrative arm of the DHHS is taking eleven straight days off for 'holiday time'.  For those business owners who have been shut down and lost their livelihoods by the DHHS' orders, do not worry about DHD staff:  there is no indication they are losing any pay (courtesy of your taxes and fees) due to these unwarranted extended vacations.

DHD #10 has not stated why they are taking extended holidays, just that they are.   The DHHS website has no authorization for their state offices to take the week between Christmas and New Years Day off, they do note the Christmas days off as Dec 24-25 and New Years holiday as 12-31-20 and 1-1-21.   

The DHHS does warn us of how unsafe Christmas and New Years celebrations are to be avoided and that this is a critical time for restricting the spread by taking the usual precautions they order you to follow-- as they go AWOL for nearly two weeks, allowing their employees more free time to engage in the risky behaviors they officially deny you.  

This is not a policy followed throughout the state.  DHD #2 notes that it will be open for three days next week.  DHD #4 is scheduled to be open even on New Year's Eve, as it was on Christmas Eve.  These eastern Michigan DHDs are actually experiencing less Covid-19 heat than DHD #10, as shown in this recent map of cases:

The DHD of one of the worst hit areas of the state is taking three extra days off next week without any rationale or authorization (but with pay).  The Ludington Torch knows this only due to the notice that we were sent for a public records (FOIA) request made earlier this week.  Our response had them telling us that our response time would amount to over one month from when I made the request via E-mail on 12-20-2020.  They replied:

 

"Your FOIA Request (log #2020-12-036) was logged as received on 12/22/2020. Attached is a Notice of Extended Response Time for your FOIA request. The initial deadline of five working days (excluding holidays and weekends) from receipt was 01/06/2021. We are extending the response time 10 working days to 01/21/2021."

The math of five 'working' days turning into sixteen days confused us, until we searched diligently and found their extended 'holiday hours'.  Still they failed to take into effect the wording of state FOIA law, which was most recently clarified by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in his opinion:  

 

"The five business days within which a public body must respond to a request for a public record... means five consecutive weekdays, other than Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays, and not five consecutive days on which the particular public body receiving the request is open for public business... Although a public body may choose to maintain a limited schedule for public access to its principal place of business, this does not serve to limit or reduce the obligation of its administrative officers to perform their legal duties and responsibilities."

DHD #10's FOIA Coordinator Jane Drake also said my request was received by the agency on December 22, however, my request was made on December 20th (a Sunday) and legally received by the agency on the 21st by MCL 15.235(1):  "A written request made by [E-mail] is not received by a public body's FOIA coordinator until 1 business day after the electronic transmission is made."

Noting that the eves and days of Christmas and New Years are state-recognized legal holidays, the initial response should be due by December 30th and the extension can go no longer than January 15th.  When one considers the errors of calculations and the lack of work ethic displayed by our local health department, one has to wonder about the accuracy of the other statistics and projections they have offered during this pandemic.  

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Good points, X. Maybe a significant number of the DHD #10 staff has covid, but in that case you would think they would say something to that effect to justify taking that much time off in the heat of the pandemic in our region.

Their release shows that all offices of DHD#10 will be closed, and their FOIA reply indicates that this closure affects even activities that are not in-person.  This announcement has no source, nor does it include any kind of authorization from DHHS.  It's like they are telling all of us:  "We're tired of making infographics on data that is otherwise kept secret from the public, we need eleven days to recuperate from our non-transparency over the last eleven months."

The most sickening part is that the DHHS/DHD is the state agency that has since October kept many businesses that could operate in safety closed down through government edict, robbing their owners and employees of earning an honest living while mega-chains are allowed to stay open and steal their customers and business.

My comment attempted a sarcastic flair. It's a shame that so many government agencies are politicizing and taking advantage of the pandemic to produce less out put and services to those who pay their wages while having their livelihoods crushed by executive orders.

Like any other Government agency the public comes last and there own comes first. Your problem X, with obtaining documents, is not unexpected and frankly I'm surprised the Governor has not suspended the FIOA regulations during this boondoggle. Just like the flu it's expected that more people will become infected when more folks stay inside. That's always the case during cold and flu season. And Oceana county has a large illegal alien population which has proven to be a major spreader of Covid. If they become sick they visit the only large medical center in the area which is located in Mason County. The swamp has created a slush pond of disinformation and are all to willing to make the citizens suffer thru this. Do the statistics below prove that we are in a Covid19 crisis as the left wants us to believe. It may be a crisis for the elderly but almost the same number of people have died from Pneumonia as from Covid19. Over 9,000 people dying from Covid is nothing to sneeze about but so is the thousands who died from

Pneumonia and the 100,000 who died from all causes this year.

https://www.mdch.state.mi.us/pha/osr/Provisional/CvdTable2.asp

https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/more-sports/updated-michigan-covid...

Early on in the shutdowns when Governor Gretchen prohibited local governments from doing their non-essential services (making many of us wonder why there was so much non-essential activities being done by local governments in the first place), she allowed FOIA coordinators discretion on response times because keeping the public informed was non-essential to her.  The suspension lasted until early June (was not renewed possibly because of a couple lawsuits filed against it), the early April executive order allowed a public body to wait until that time to respond, permitting a public body to take over two months to respond to even a simple FOIA request. 

The City of Ludington, to the credit of their city manager and attorney, did not take advantage of this and timely responded to my requests during that time.  

I am currently working on another article on disarming statistics.  More people will likely die of tuberculosis than coronavirus this year, both have been estimated to kill around 1.8 million worldwide this year.  TB deaths are expected to be up 400K more this year because of health care's focus on Covid.

Thanks for the information on Gretchen's FOIA regulations. Like a good leftist she allowed the wheels of Government to be put into low gear. Your right about TB. It's a nasty way to die.

The U.S. Post Office in Macomb County in Detroit has also been closed now for about 2 weeks for vacation during the Holidays. Really? Yes, and confirmed by our local supervisor too. This is where all the forwarding mail goes if you are out of state or town having forwarding done. NICE EH? What it amounts to is all your forwarded mail is in lock down, and your billings will all be late in payment, causing late fees and finance charges now and into the near future. Some utilities may also shut you off. These people too have no common sense nor ability to think with any brain power, pathetic, and unjust actions cause thousands suffering.

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