Woman charged in threat against Genesee County health officials

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A woman has been charged in connection with an alleged threat against Genesee County health officials this week following a recent student mask mandate.

Helaina Burt was arraigned Friday through 67th District Court in Flint on one felony  count of making a false report or threat of terrorism and two misdemeanor counts of malicious use of a telecommunications device, records show.

Bond was set at $22,000. A judge ordered the Grand Blanc resident to follow an 8 p.m. curfew, avoid drugs and alcohol, not possess or purchase a firearm or other dangerous weapon and have no contact with the victims.

Gavel

A probable cause conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 9.

Matthew Norwood, the attorney listed as representing Burt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday on the case.

Pamela Hackert, the medical health officer with the Genesee County Health Department, told The Detroit News this week she and deputy Health Officer Kayleigh Blaney received the threat by phone on Tuesday. She declined to describe it, citing the ongoing investigation. 

Hackert said the threat was reported to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and authorities "moved quickly."

Allegations of the threat came nearly two weeks after the county health department issued an order that students in kindergarten through sixth grades as well as teachers and staff must wear masks in schools and other settings regardless of vaccination status.

Mask mandates have sparked controversy in Metro Detroit as the new school year approaches and COVID-19 cases rise.

Oakland County announced a policy Tuesday requiring masks for students and staff in all preschools as well as K-12 public schools regardless of vaccination status.

The next day, dozens of parents and students protested the decision outside county offices.

Hours later, others demonstrated at the Macomb County Health Department in a bid to have officials to issue a mask mandate.

On Friday, Wayne County started requiring local school districts to have students and school staff wear a face mask in school and during indoor events, regardless of vaccination status.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has defended her decision not to issue a statewide mask mandate despite advice from the state's chief medical executive as well as urging from federal officials and the White House.

She told reporters Monday there are mitigating measures such as vaccines, and added that nearly 35% of Michigan students were in districts that have implemented mask requirements.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 transmission is high enough in most of Michigan's 83 counties that many residents are urged under federal guidelines to wear masks in public, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state this week added 12,204 cases and 117 deaths from the virus, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday.

Last week, Michigan reported 10,807 new cases, up 14% from the 9,467 cases disclosed over the previous seven-day period.

Michigan's COVID-19 hospitalizations now exceed 1,100 inpatients, and new infection numbers have been climbing for a month.

Through Thursday, 65.4% of Michigan residents age 16 or older had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the state health department.