Coronavirus image (Photo: Submitted)

Local health officials are urging St. Clair County residents to self-report if they test positive for COVID-19 and to submit a complaint if they see a business that isn’t following the latest state restrictions.

Dr. Annette Mercatante, the county’s medical health officer, has said both online forms are a tool to help deal with “issues with accelerated cases of COVID” in hopes that residents “take this seriously.”

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“Some misinformation is circulating. Some people think we are investigating private homes and gatherings. This is not true. We are not,” she said. “The complaint process is only for those businesses/agencies/worksites in violation of the latest epidemic orders. We understand this is a challenging time. However, we encourage everyone to remember, this is temporary, a temporary pause. We will get through this.”

Both online resources can be accessed via

As of Thursday, there were 2,385 active coronavirus cases and 4,117 total reported in the county, according to the health department’s dashboard, as well as 79 deaths and 1,653 recoveries.

A similar rise has been reported across the state, spurring the latest set of rules that took effect Nov. 18 and last through Dec. 9, shutting down dine-in restaurant services, some in-school learning, large gatherings and other businesses such as theaters.

The state is also amid an ongoing order for wearing facemasks in public areas.

Health department has issued 3 cease-and-desist orders

The online form for complaints asks submitters the date of an event or visit where they witnessed a violation of state restrictions, the facility name and type of business, a description and their own name and contact information.

Mercatante said it’d also be helpful if those who witness issues submit some other form of documentation.

“Especially a picture that has time and date stamped,” she told residents. “With that, we can proceed with a cease-and-desist order. A cease-and-desist order serves as a temporary injunction, which means the party that receives the order must stop what they’re doing until a trial can be held.

“Violations of a court-approved cease-and-desist order can lead to legal penalties. They can also include contempt of order issued by the court, and these can also result in further fines and consequences. If a cease-and-desist order is continually disregarded, it could lead to a lawsuit, especially where the violation has resulted in considerable harm or damage.”

As of Tuesday, the health department had issued three cease-and-desists.

Health officials did not indicate which establishments were impacted but said that no particular kind of facility has been singularly a cause for concern.

“Compliance thus far, has been favorable in the county,” Mercatante said. “Those establishments served the cease-and-desist orders have complied. Questions or clarifications have been addressed.”

Self-reporting hoped to help case investigations

There are three options on the county’s COVID website to report a positive case: Learning centers and schools, employers and organizations, and for individuals.

Mercatante said that the report-a-case function has been “ideally suited” for employers and health care workers.

Earlier this fall, the health department announced that because of an overwhelming caseload, not every contact potentially exposed to the virus may hear from a case investigator and that those who test positive were largely encouraged to reach out to contacts on their own.

But moving forward, Mercatante said they hope the more-simplified online reporting site will make it easier for staff to prioritize cases.

“It may help increase accuracy when lab results, especially the rapid tests, often fail to get reported,” she said. “Putting ‘cases together’ to identify outbreaks and links is only possible with direct case investigations, but using a self-reporting system like this may facilitate this process, as well. At a time when all of our resources are stretched to the limit, including our human resources, we have to look for ways to increase our efficiency and this online submission approach, for both cases and complaints, is an attempt to do that.”

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

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