Michigan county tells residents to ignore coronavirus restrictions and ‘get back to normal life’
ALCONA COUNTY, MI — The language of a rural Michigan county council resolution defying statewide coronavirus restrictions alluded to the civil disobedience demonstrated at the Boston Tea Party.
“We do not advocate reversal or abolition,” according to Alcona County Resolution 2020-13, “but if these practices continue, (we advocate) civil disobedience and ignoring excessive and oppressive executive orders that were inflicted on our citizens, similar to the Boston Tea Party, which respected the freighters but not the cargo itself.
Instead of throwing tea into the water, “cargo” in this case would mean “returning to normal life” by choosing not to follow statewide mandates for virtual education and the wearing a mask, said Alcona County Commissioner Gary Wnuk of U.S. Taxpayers. Party, who drafted the resolution.
Wnuk and the other four Republican county commissioners unanimously approved the Aug. 19 resolution, which also called on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to place Alcona County in the same region as other northern Michigan counties with less restrictions.
Currently, the 10,000+ farmland county is in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 4, adhering to the same restrictions as Bay City and Saginaw. The board has requested a new designation for Region 6 and Northern Michigan, which is in Phase 5, or the least restrictive part of Whitmer’s “safe start plan.”
A change to Region 6 would open dine-in service for restaurants and bars over 50% capacity, increase indoor and outdoor gathering limits, and open gyms and fitness centers.
Wnuk said it wasn’t fair to group Alcona County with larger cities with higher transmission risks.
“We just don’t have the same similarities that you would have with Bay City or Saginaw,” he said. “Most properties are at least 10 to 20 acres. We’re not exactly stuck. When you take a one-size-fits-all solution, it just doesn’t work.
Alcona County currently has 32 cases and two deaths from COVID-19 according to statewide data. Bay County has recorded 791 cases and 43 deaths, while Saginaw County is reporting more than 2,500 cases and 130 deaths.
Related: Wednesday, September 9, coronavirus data by Michigan county: Eight counties in red or orange
This disparity led to an Aug. 5 letter sent to Whitmer by State Rep. Tristan Cole, R-Mancelona, and Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, on behalf of Alcona and D. ‘Oscoda to move to phase 5.
“As elected representatives of these areas in the Michigan Legislature, we implore you to consider the serious harm that could be caused if adjustments to these restrictions are not made when the specific circumstances and reported data reveal a risk. objectively weaker for these areas,” the letter read.
A primary motivation, said Denise Bryan, district health officer for Alcona and Oscoda counties and one of the letter’s co-sponsors, is the cost required to implement safe education guidelines in rural northeast Michigan counties, such as ensuring broadband access for virtual education.
“All counties are rural and have struggling economic development issues, including ‘broadband desert’ issues, particularly in Alcona and Oscoda counties,” she said. “Local public health staff have worked closely with principals, parents and elected officials to design school reopening plans, and it has been especially challenging for schools in Alcona and Edmonton counties. Oscoda as they are aligned, through their (school districts), with northern counties in the Phase 5 designation.”
Whitmer rejected MERC’s proposed region change in an Aug. 11 response letter, saying Alcona was associated with Bay and Saginaw counties because of “travel patterns and health emergency preparedness infrastructure.” “. Alcona County is over 100 miles from Saginaw and Bay City.
“These regions were established to limit the interaction between high and low risk regions,” Whitmer said. “While no line is perfect, given this important goal, we are not considering requests to change regions at this time.”
Read more: Michigan governor agrees with Big Ten’s call to postpone football
In fact, Alcona County has been better at preventing COVID-19 than its less restrictive neighboring counties to the north, Wnuk said.
“When writing the resolution, I was initially going to omit Traverse City due to their high numbers, and I really didn’t want to be associated with them,” he said. “Alpena north of us has four times as many cases, and they’re in the best area…we’re in the four lowest counties at Mitten Point!”
Grand Traverse County has 349 cases and seven deaths, and Alpena County has 118 cases and 14 deaths.
While other counties hardest hit by the virus are returning to some sense of normalcy, less-affected counties in more restrictive areas like Alcona continue to be “gripped by fear,” Wnuk said.
He wants to change that for his constituents.
“People’s lives are dying, because we are afraid,” he said. “I think people just need to live again.”
He stressed that the language of civil disobedience in the letter should not be confused with physical violence, as that would not be consistent with the civility of the Boston Tea Party culprits.
“It doesn’t have to be violent,” he said. “When I brought up the Boston Tea Party, I found an unusual fact about it that blew my mind. After the men were done throwing the tea overboard, they swept the decks.. None of the men stole the tea, they were all honest individuals, but after they finished throwing away the tea, they cleaned up the ship and moved on to the next one.”
Their resolution has been passed on to Whitmer with no response at this time, Wnuk said.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
Along with washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, authorities recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus.
Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet away from others and work from home, if possible.
Use disinfectant wipes or disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go to places like stores.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouths and noses in crowded indoor and outdoor public spaces. See an explanation of what this means here.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, click here.
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