Do mask mandates have an impact on COVID outbreaks in schools?

COVID numbers increase across Michigan

Michigan reported 16,143 new cases of COVID-19 and 160 virus-related deaths Monday -- an average of 5,381 cases over the past three days.

DETROIT – Michigan reported 16,143 new cases of COVID-19 and 160 virus-related deaths Monday -- an average of 5,381 cases over the past three days.

Monday’s update brings the total number of confirmed COVID cases in Michigan to 1,396,467, including 25,240 deaths. These numbers are up from 1,380,324 cases and 25,080 deaths, as of Friday.

Read more: Michigan reports 16,143 new COVID cases, 160 deaths -- average of 5,381 cases per day

As COVID numbers spike across Michigan, there are concerns about outbreaks in schools.

Currently, 11 departments have mask requirements for children in schools -- which covers 15 counties. Four of those are set to expire in the next three weeks.

The mask requirements in Kent County and Ottawa County are set to expire on Jan. 2. The mask requirements in Genesee County will expire on Dec. 22 and the requirement in Kalamazoo County will expire on Dec. 17.

Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties still have their requirements in place and all reported outbreaks this week. So did Macomb County, which does not have a mandate. Macomb County reported a single outbreak with only four cases. Wayne County reported six outbreaks and 48 cases.

Why did that happen? The answer isn’t simple.

Read: Tracking COVID outbreaks in Michigan schools, colleges

Study shows masks work

In October, the University of Michigan released a study showing schools with mask mandates had 62% fewer cases than unmasked schools and based on repeated studies throughout the pandemic. Masks are somewhere between 80% to 97% effective in stopping the spread of the virus depending on the kind of mask you’re wearing.

When it comes to outbreaks in schools, it isn’t just about who is wearing a mask and who is not wearing a mask. It’s also about things like population and how active children and families are outside of school. Vaccine hesitancy is also a factor, and who reports the numbers is also a big issue. If schools or counties aren’t reporting outbreaks, they simply aren’t going to be in the state numbers.

Emily Melltis is part of the group Michigan Parents Alliance for School Safety. They’ve sent nearly 5,000 letters to state officials, calling for a return to statewide mask mandates in schools.

In her son’s school in Macomb County, she said she has begged for transparency when it comes to cases. Local 4 asked the school district for a response to allegations it was hiding case numbers, but did not get a response back.

Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage

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About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.