BHSJ issues quarantine order, guidelines for COVID-19 close contacts

COLDWATER — Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ) officials issued a public health order Friday ordering and outlining quarantine measures for those in the area that are identified as close contacts of individuals that test positive for COVID-19.

The order affects any individual who resides, attends school or is employed within the tri-county area that are notified by BHSJ, a school district, or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) they are a close contact. Those individuals would be required to quarantine themselves for 10 days, or seven days with a negative COVID test.

“Close contact” is defined in the order as being within six feet of someone who is a COVID-19 case for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. It also includes engaging in sports activities with “unavoidable frequent physical contact” for a total time of less than 15 minutes with someone identified as a COVID-19 case.

The order does not apply to those who are fully vaccinated without symptoms and not currently in isolation, nor persons without symptoms who were a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case in the last 90 days and have since recovered.

The order comes as school districts in the area are up and running for the new school year with no student masking required, except on buses. As of Sept. 2, there have been seven positive cases of COVID-19 reported between all K-12 school districts in St. Joseph County, with five of them reported by White Pigeon Community Schools. In addition, the St. Joseph County ISD had to close the Pathfinder Center until Sept. 13 due to an additional five positive cases that quarantined about a third of the students in the building.

BHSJ Medical Director Dr. Lauren Vogel said the community is still in “an evolving health epidemic” that places children at risk for the virus.

“While vaccination and masking are important to help control this epidemic, quarantine of those infected is the most important means we currently have to prevent spread,” Vogel said in a release. “Since many of those exposed and who will become infectious have no symptoms, we need to follow the scientific proven practice of separating those potentially infected until it is safe for them to return to the public. The quarantine orders are necessary to enforce those rules for community safety.”

Vogel said the order, which she said was based upon the most recent medical facts about the virus, is intended to protect vulnerable individuals, people who are not yet vaccinated, and to reduce transmission of the virus in schools and workplaces.

The order is in effect until a further order is issued by the health department.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or

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