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Man claims to make "citizen's arrest" during board of health meeting over mask order; no arrests actually made

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The vitriol aimed at local health department leaders over school mask orders continued at a meeting of the Barry-Eaton District Board of Health Thursday, as one man used the board’s public comment period to claim he was placing the health officer under “citizen’s arrest.”

No one was actually arrested.

The Michigan Parents Alliance for Safe Schools postededited clips from the board of health meeting on its Facebook page. In the video, another person speaks of putting board members in a “gas chamber.”

“While we support the right for people to peacefully protest, as well as people to provide feedback and public comment at public meetings, it is important that folks do that civilly and responsibly,” said Barry-Eaton District health officer Colette Scrimger, in a statement released Friday afternoon. “The safety of everyone concerned is at the top of my mind.”

Thursday’s board of health meeting took place in the city of Hastings. The Hastings police department said it’s continuing to look into what happened at the meeting, and working with the county prosecutor to determine if any charges are warranted.

The Barry-Eaton District Health Department announced a school mask mandate last week, saying that COVID cases among 0-17 year olds had risen more than 200% in the two weeks since school started in the two counties. Numerous studies have shown that masks can help slow the spread of COVID-19 indoors.

“Under the Michigan Public Health Code, State Law, I have a statutory duty to prevent an imminent danger in the community that could cause disease, death or physical harm,” said Scrimger, in the statement released Friday.

Despite the evidence that masks help slow the spread of COVID-19 indoors, some parents have continued to protest school mask mandates, and, in some cases, parents have threatened violence. In Genesee County, one woman faces felony charges for allegedly threatening to murder health department staff over school mask orders. And earlier this week, The Michigan Advance reported the health officer for Kent County wrote that one anti-mask person tried to run him off the road in his car.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.