Michigan parent groups lobby health department to impose masks on all schools

Children wear masks when they return to school in Hillsborough County in August 2021.

A coalition of parent groups on Wednesday urged the Michigan Department of Health to require masking inside all schools to fight the coronavirus and pledged to fight politicians who oppose such mandates .

The Michigan Parents Alliance for Safe Schools includes pro-mask groups from a dozen counties – seven with school mask mandates and five without.

“Right now you have about 60% of Michigan’s kids covered. What about the remaining 40%? We’re going to keep fighting for them,” said Emily Mellits, mother of two school age children. in Macomb County. It is Michigan’s third most populous county, and unlike most large counties and many small ones, does not require a face covering, leaving it up to schools to decide.

The coalition, which launched a petition demanding a statewide mandate for state health director Elizabeth Hertel, acted a day after a Republican-controlled Senate committee approved bills that would prevent state and local health officials from requiring masks to attend school. Some GOP lawmakers have threatened financial repercussions on county health departments that issue mask orders.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration lifted a broad mandate on indoor masks in June, citing vaccinations and low infection rates. She said it’s best to hide the decisions to be made locally as it increases the chances of people complying.

But Mellits said school board members are not public health experts and “that shouldn’t be their responsibility.” Some, she said, do not trust advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, both of which recommend universal masking in schools as cases have increased.

Dr Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in West Michigan who has three children in school, said masking in indoor environments where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial “isn’t everything. simply not negotiable. The lack of a universal mask mandate in the state of Michigan has not only left our children vulnerable to COVID-19, but also unvaccinated and fragile members of our community. in our ability to control the pandemic and live safely with this virus.

When asked about the petition, state health department spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin applauded local health agencies and school districts for requiring face coverings and urged all districts to follow their lead. But there was no indication that the Whitmer administration would change course.

Michigan recorded about 6,600 new cases of the virus over two days and 62 additional deaths, including 41 older deaths resulting from a review of records. The seven-day case average as of Monday, 2,476, was up from 2,198 two weeks earlier, according to Johns Hopkins University. The daily average of deaths was stable at 21, down from 20 on August 30.

The number of adults hospitalized with confirmed infections was a third of the April peak. The state’s two-week case rate continued to be among the lowest nationally.

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