Oakland County announces end of face mask mandate in schools – The Oakland Press
Oakland County health officials are dropping a mask mandate put in place for K-12 schools and daycares last year. The term ends on February 28.
This follows Wayne and Ingham counties announcing their terms end this month; Wayne ended immediately; Ingham ends Feb. 19, according to the Associated Press.
Bill Mullan, Oakland County media and communications manager, said the two-week notice gives school officials time to prepare staff, board members and families for the changes and take action. decisions and policies needed at the district level.
As for public pressure to make the change, Mullan said, county officials heard in equal numbers from parents of students opposed to masks and those who wanted mandatory masks.
County officials have been talking about scrapping the requirement for weeks and based the decision on public health measures such as the rapidly declining number of positive test results reported in the state and in the United States, as well as a drop in hospitalizations, he said. .
The decision could come as a relief to officials in at least three school districts that were the subject of lawsuits filed earlier this month seeking to end mask rules. Huron Valley Schools, Troy School District and Waterford School District were all targeted. The suits also named county health division director Leigh-Anne Stafford for issuing the school-related mask warrant last November.
Paul Salah, Superintendent of Huron Valley Schools, told The Oakland Press that district officials have said “since the beginning of the school year that masking would be optional. The mandate of the Oakland County Health Department has changed our plans. When the OCHD drops the mandate, we will no longer need masking.
Lansing’s attorney, David Kallman, who filed the lawsuits, said the news was “better late than never” but the lawsuit will not be dropped.
He said another push could lead to another mask mandate, and that’s the problem his customers want to combat. He plans to file a similar lawsuit early next week in Washtenaw County, but declined to name the targeted district or districts. He said the lawsuit is on behalf of the parents and a non-profit organization. A third similar lawsuit is being discussed with Wayne County clients who retained his services on Friday, he said.
Late Friday, Troy District officials let their community know that masks will be strongly recommended but not required, starting Feb. 28. All other security and mitigation efforts will remain in effect.
Waterford school officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Oakland Press.
“We’re still monitoring the data to see what’s happening with COVID and transmission,” Mullan said. “Obviously if there’s another flare-up or something that needs to be resolved, we’ll do it then.”
Oxford School Board chairman Tom Donnelly told parents this week at a board meeting that county rules were behind the district’s mask mandate.
“You elected us to make sure your children go to school. We’re not the ones forcing them to wear a mask,’ Donnelly told those present at the meeting. “The Oakland County Health Division is. Period.”
Some parents remain concerned about the abandonment of mandates. In a statement from the Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools, member, Rochester Hills resident Jennifer Tuksal, said, “This rapid and dramatic rush to masking ‘exit ramps’ has not been properly explained and seems ignore the ongoing risk faced by so many. At the same time, no one is talking about what they will use “on the ramps” to determine if masks should be worn in schools again, either in the coming weeks or when a new, more contagious variant emerges.
MiPASS officials are asking county officials to provide clear guidance on how decisions are made and what actions will be taken if another wave begins. The MiPASS statement notes that children under 5 still need COVID vaccines. The group is calling on schools to have clear guidance on masks and the COVID response, including plans for medically fragile children, and plans to prevent bullying of children who choose to mask.
On March 11, 2020, health officials announced the first Oakland County resident diagnosed with COVID-19. A month later, county health officials issued the first mask mandate, one of more than a dozen COVID-related announcements that included pool and mall closures and directives that companies join the effort to limit the spread of the virus.
“As we see our critical metrics of vaccinations, hospital admissions and cases trending in a direction that tells us the impact of COVID-19 on our community is dramatically improving, now is the time to remove ordering masks for child care centers and educational institutions,” Health Division Medical Director Dr. Russell Faust said in a statement released Friday.
“We must, however, remain vigilant as long as we remain in a pandemic,” he said.
County health officials have indicated they will support school district officials’ efforts to use public health tools to prevent COVID from closing schools again.
COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as COVID-19 vaccinations, wearing a mask, hand washing, social distancing, and staying home when sick will help protect students , teachers, staff, visitors and others.
Health officials monitoring COVID-related numbers have seen county test positivity drop nearly 50%; the number of people with COVID-19 fell by 40% as of February 6. The seven-day case average for February 8 fell 83% from its peak in early January. Health officials are monitoring these numbers to determine what public health safety measures should be in place.
Hospital admissions in Oakland County for adults have fallen 72% since the peak on January 10 and 67% for children since the highest admissions on January 8.
The state’s vaccine dashboard shows Oakland’s vaccination rate for ages 5 and older at 75.8% as of Feb. 8. Those aged 12 and over are vaccinated at a rate of 79.1%, which includes people who have received a first dose; people 65 years and older have the highest protection against the first dose, 92.9%.
“I am grateful to our school leadership who has worked diligently with us on measures to keep students in schools, and to our parents who vaccinate their children to protect them,” said the Director of Health and of Oakland County Social Services, Leigh-Anne Stafford. “We are now at a stage in the pandemic where an emergency health order should be replaced by individual action to protect ourselves, in particular by masking up in public and getting vaccinated. As a local public health agency, we are committed to continuing our support for local school districts by providing best practices, current COVID-19 data, and recommendations for staying safe and healthy.
Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MDHHS are advising everyone 2 years and older to use a mask inside schools, regardless of vaccination status.
People can learn more about COVID-19 resources on the County Health Division’s website www.oakgov.com/covid or by calling Nurse on Call at (800) 848-5533 or [email protected] com. The on-call nurse is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
(Aileen Wingblad, Paula Pasche and The Associated Press contributed to this story.)