A group of parents in Macomb County are demanding that school and county health officials enact a schools mask mandate to help stop the spread of COVID-19 when students and teachers return to in-person classes this fall.
The group called “Macomb County Parents for Safe in Person School” have submitted a letter to administration and Board of Education members of the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD), Macomb County Health Department leaders, and county Executive Mark Hackel. The letter includes the names of more than 40 local doctors, nurses, psychologists, businesses, Macomb County organizations, and a legal firm who have signed on as supporters. The letter was also accompanied by a petition of more than 700 signatures.
The letter reads in part:
“Masks are a proven mitigation strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If we don’t utilize masks and other health protocols, we can expect constant quarantines or even a full shutdown of some Macomb County Schools, which will require us to return to a remote learning situation. We recognize the hardship remote learning puts on working parents, teachers, and children. We must do everything in our power to keep the spread at a minimum and give our children a safe learning environment in school.”
The letter cited recommendations from the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, Beaumont Health, Henry Ford Health, the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Michigan’s chief health director, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who have all stated that masks should be used in the classroom, regardless of vaccination status, to slow down the transmission of COVID-19.
“Being that our youngest children are not yet eligible for vaccination, they are currently the most vulnerable population,” said Emily Mellits, a lead organizer with the group. “To remove the one effective mitigation strategy that can protect them, is unacceptable. When McDonalds is taking more precautions than our schools, there is a huge problem.”
There is also a petition to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with more than 5,000 signatures.
Other parents reject mask mandates, want parents to have choice
Meanwhile, there are other groups of Macomb County parents who are in full opposition to such school mask mandates. The group “Moms for Liberty Macomb County” said parents must have a choice in the matter. They are part of an open letter addressed to President Joe Biden, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, CDC leadership, Michigan health officials and school administrators, asking that masks remain a choice for parents and students.
“To the school boards, school administrators, local government leaders and businesses who have respected parental choice, we applaud you,” reads the letter. “We anticipate and appreciate your continued support of children and our rights as parents to do what is best for them as individuals. We do not wish to take away from the learning environment of any child, and therefore support choices for individual families.”
The letter is signed by a long list of groups including Let Them Play Michigan, Inc., MICHIGAN Save Our Kids Open Our Schools, Common Sense for Grosse Pointe Schools and more.
Moms for Liberty Macomb County said it has about 1,400 members.
Michigan health chief questioned about why state hasn’t issued mask mandate
Michigan’s top doctor was questioned repeatedly Wednesday about why the state hasn’t issued a mask mandate if it could help slow the spread of the COVID delta variant, particularly in schools.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, joined the question-and-answer portion of a presentation given by Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, the top epidemiologist in the state.
“I have recommended that if a mask mandate were in place and it were followed, it would likely decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” Khaldun said.
- 16 takeaways from Michigan COVID update: Delta spread, mask mandates, third vaccine dose
In absence of state mandate, Michigan schools battle over masks at local level
Michigan is allowing individual school districts and county health departments to make their own policies.
Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services all have data that show that children wearing masks at school will slow the spread of COVID-19.
As of Thursday, Aug. 19, about 60 school districts across the state have implemented mask mandates. In Macomb County, only the Mount Clemens Community Schools district has issued a mask mandate.