Cass County declares local state of emergency

Published 9:40 am Friday, December 4, 2020

CASSOPOLIS — Cass County has declared a local state of emergency.

Thursday evening, during the Cass County Board of Commissioners’ regularly scheduled virtual meeting, the board voted to approve a resolution declaring a state of emergency for the county. The declaration will remain in effect until Jan. 31, 2021.

According to County Administrator Jeff Carmen and Emergency Manager David Smith, Cass County is following in the footsteps of counties across the state that have declared local states of emergency to make available resources that could not be accessed without the declaration and allow the county to continue to host virtual meetings beyond the end of the year.

Neighboring Van Buren County, which shares the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department with Cass County, has also declared a local state of emergency.

According to the resolution document, the declaration addresses a number of items for Cass County as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the region:

  • It establishes that a local state of emergency still exists in Cass County and that any widespread outbreak within the county could hinder and/or cease most daily operations within the entire county and overwhelm the public health services, emergency medical services, hospitals and urgent care facilities.
  • Cass County continues to need assistance from the federal and state government for funding, personal protection equipment, and other resources related to response to the coronavirus.
  • To protect public health, the declaration allows Cass County and all other townships, villages and cities within Cass County to legally conduct virtual meetings consistent with the Open Meetings Act.

“This was triggered in large part by a necessity to have remote meetings,” Carmen said. “Although we have a high number of [COVID-19] cases, this was much more about the ability of county government to function.”

At this point, Carmen said it is too early to tell if the state of emergency would be extended past Jan. 31, 2021, but said the board of commissioners could easily do so if the need for a declaration remained.