Michigan drops mask recommendations for K-12 schools, most indoor settings as COVID cases drop

State now in ‘recovery’ following a surge in infections, hospitalizations, officials say

Kindergarten teacher Karen Drolet, left, works with a student at Raices Dual Language Academy, a public school in Central Falls, R.I., Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. As some of the last statewide mask mandates in the U.S. near an end, decisions about whether students and teachers should continue to wear masks in school are shifting to local leaders, who are caught in the middle of one of the most combustible issues of the pandemic. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is updating its COVID-19 masking guidance as the state enters a “recovery” phase following a surge in virus infections and hospitalizations.

Following weeks of a record-setting surge in COVID-19 spread across Michigan, the state’s numbers have shown a promising decline. Daily new COVID-19 case counts are down significantly from last month, and the state’s 7-day positive testing rate is the lowest it has been since the end of October.

In response, Michigan’s health department has issued new guidance for masking. Individuals who are high risk or in a high risk environment should continue wearing a face mask despite the state’s declining cases, officials said. Everyone else is encouraged to wear a mask if they choose to, but they are not being urged to.

Health officials were previously recommending that face masks be worn in most public indoor spaces to help prevent COVID spread.

The state health department has now identified three separate phases in which to categorize the pandemic and intensity of virus spread:

  • Response: Local and state public health implement rapid response to a surge.The public may be advised to increase masking, testing and social distancing.
  • Recovery: Post-surge. No immediate resurgence predicted. Local and state public health will monitor conditions that could lead to future surges.
  • Readiness: A surge in cases is expected, with implications on severity of illness and hospital capacity. Increased communication to the public regarding possible new risks.

MDHHS officials said Wednesday that the state is in “recovery,” and in this “post surge” scenario, school districts and organizations should work with their local health departments to determine any COVID-19-related policies or mandates. There has not been a statewide mask mandate in Michigan since last June.

Science has shown that masks remain a vital tool in slowing the spread of COVID from person to person.

“Individuals and families should assess their own risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission and make choices about when it makes sense to wear masks,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “We want to make sure individuals and local communities have the information and tools they need to make choices for their families based on their personal situation and local community conditions. We continue to strongly urge all residents ages 5 and older get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and to get boosted when eligible as the vaccine continues to be our best defense against the virus.”

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About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.