Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made a lot of terrible decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new requirement that was just set by the state’s health department tops the cake. In a lawsuit that was filed in Michigan’s Court of Claims, a high school sports advocacy group is suing the state in regards to a new requirement in which all teen athletes must be regularly tested for COVID-19.
The group, ‘Let Them Play,’ held a rally outside of the Michigan Capitol building and were questioning the legality of Michigan health departments installing orders on high school sports. The suit is to clarify whether or not COVID-19 has any ‘binding legal effect’ on student-athletes and if the state has legal authority to force testing on Michigan citizens. They were demanding that Gov. Whitmer not only reverse the order but advocate for the full return of high school sports.
“She did not identify the legal authority for announcing the guidance but wrote that ‘MDHHS expects the Interim Guidance for Athletics to be followed as directed by the emergency order,’” wrote Peter Ruddell, a Honigman LLP attorney representing ‘Let Them Play.’
The memo requires that athletes, ages 13-19 years old, that engage in contact sports must be tested once a week if they wear a mask and up to three times weekly if face coverings are not worn. Some athletes were even forced to comply with the mandatory testing even though they weren’t comfortable doing so.
One athlete was not allowed to compete in a state tournament because of a friend who had tested positive for COVID-19. While the athlete was asymptomatic, he could not compete because he came within 6 feet of the student who was infected. Mind you, the athlete was wearing a mask.
Ruddell sent a memo to health department director Elizabeth Hertel to challenge the mandatory quarantines, as well as call for the return of paused winter season sports. “For these athletes, participation in high school sports is crucial to their physical and mental health, essential for maintenance and advancement of their athletic skills, invaluable to their training, and the irreplaceable source of opportunities to associate with peers and mentors,” the memo reads.
The lawsuit also points out that these requirements are not only “arbitrary and capricious,” but also violate due process rights. They also challenged the contact-tracing and quarantine rules stated in the state-mandated guidance.
Gov. Whitmer has spent weeks claiming that a large number of cases are linked to sports teams and that mandatory testing is the only way to prevent outbreaks among athletes. It’s one thing to make a recommendation and another to make it mandatory. One is constitutional and the other is not.
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