| Lansing State Journal
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LANSING — Violating local or statewide public health orders in Lansing could result in a fine of up to $500.
Lansing City Council authorized the change Monday night as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the state and region.
East Lansing officials took similar action earlier this month by setting a maximum $500 fine for public health violations within that city.
It’s already possible to be charged with a misdemeanor — punishable by a maximum of six months imprisonment and/or a $200 fine — for disobeying public health orders in Michigan.
Now, in Ingham County’s two largest cities, police also have the option to punish people with civil infractions that do not leave marks on their criminal records.
Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said the fines could be an alternative to criminalizing a public health matter. And she urged police try educating people about COVID-19 risk before writing a ticket.
The penalties could apply to people who willfully or knowingly break the rules, according to language in the recently adopted ordinance.
Public health rules currently in place include:
- Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 100 people
- Indoor social gatherings are capped at 10 people
- All social gatherings must be designed so people from different households can maintain 6 feet of distance from each other
- Masks are required in all indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces where it’s not possible to social distance
Council Member Brandon Betz joined the majority of council in approving the fines, but said he was concerned about police targeting people of color when they write the tickets. He asked the city attorney to give City Council an update each month with the racial breakdown of people who are cited.
COVID-19 cases surge in Ingham County
Health officials have been raising alarms about spiking COVID-19 cases throughout Michigan and Ingham County is no exception.
Forty Ingham County residents are known to have died from the virus since Sept. 1 — that’s nearly 62% of the county’s deaths tallied since March, Vail told City Council Monday night. And about 60% of the county’s confirmed 4,512 coroanvirus cases were reported since the start of September, according to a data visualization from the local health department.
“We are definitely looking at a surge in cases,” Vail said Monday. “We are definitely looking at whatever tools we have in our toolbox in order to impact people in their decisions.”
In addition to wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and staying at least 6 feet away from those outside your household, people should wash their hands frequently and avoid touching their faces to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Contact reporter Sarah Lehr at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGLehr.