Inundated with complaints, Kent Co. board says it can’t change school mask order

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting lasted for well over six hours Thursday as dozens of people weighed in on the county health department’s public health order requiring masks in schools, most of them in opposition.

The board emphasized it has no power to throw out that order.

The mandate issued last week requires masks for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — inside buildings that have preschool through sixth grade classrooms. There are exceptions for people under the age of 4, though masks are advised for children as young as 2, for certain medical conditions and for vaccinated teachers who work with children who are hard of hearing.

The commission’s work session kicked off around 10 a.m. at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. Almost 1,000 people showed up.

The commission said it has no power to end or amend the mandate. The decision to issue it came from Kent County Administrative Health Officer Adam London, who showed up virtually to the session because of threats. Some commissioners asked London why he believes the mandate is beneficial and others asked questions pertaining to its duration.

“This is by far the most extensive and far-reaching order that I have issued,” London said. “I do take that authority with a ton of humility. I do not issue it lightly. It’s not a power play on my part. I truly wish I didn’t feel compelled to order it. All of us here feel that way.”

The mandate is constitutional under Michigan law, Linda Howell, the corporate counsel for Kent County, explained.

“That (court) opinion found that mask mandates were constitutional. They do not violate due process, they do not violate equal protection and they do not violate religious free exercise,” Howell said.

After London finished speaking, about 90 minutes into the meeting, parents and community members were each given two minutes to voice their opinions and concerns about the order. The crowd didn’t want to hear that the board can’t end the mandate and were not happy with London’s response.

“Stand up, hold these people accountable, hold Adam London accountable and the simple thing is you do not comply,” one man said.

Parent after parent, dozens of people, spoke at the podium, demanding that masking — or as some put it, “muzzling” — stop in schools.

“I actually care about my kids and I don’t want them abused,” a woman from Cedar Springs said.

“Wake up, you don’t need a a Ph.D. or doctor behind your name, you need common sense. This is ridiculous,” one person said.

Many yelled.

“Patriots in this room are growing God’s army and we will not be quiet. We will fight this medical tyranny and civil disobedience is a must. God bless America,” another person said.

Some called the mask mandate “stupid,” “satanic” and “communist.”

A handful spoke in favor of masks, including a Kentwood student.

“You are made to wear a shirt and shoes in public, but a mask is too much, it seems that many of us only care about democracy if it benefits ourselves,” the student said.

Public comment lasted until about 4:30 p.m.

—News 8 web staff contributed to this report.

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