February 8, 2023

Jennifer Michaluk, the director of health education and planning, looks over to Dr. Annette Mercante during a meeting discussing Dr. Mercante's departure at the St. Clair Health Department in Port Huron on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

The departure of the St. Clair County Health Department’s chief official this month is shining a new light on an old question for the agency’s remaining staff.

How successful have they been in responding to the coronavirus?

Local health officials said they believe St. Clair County’s latest community health needs assessment is lending early credence to how they’ve been making decisions all along — including issuing two controversial COVID-related orders within the last year.

“That was always our final question,” Dr. Annette Mercatante, the county’s former medical health officer said. “We go through the risks, benefits, blah, blah, and then, what’s the right thing to do?”

Mercatante, whose contract expired this month, and the health department emerged as the targets for criticism and pushback among a cohort of angry residents, particularly parents with kids in school who opposed the temporary school mask mandate in 2002 and the quarantine order in 2021.

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