Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) administration recommended Friday students continue wearing masks in the classroom next school year.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a “layered” strategy in guidance to school districts.
The agency indicated the top priority is “promoting vaccination,” followed by “face masks;” “social distancing;” “COVID-19 screening, testing, and contact tracing;” and “maintaining healthy environments.”
MDHHS published a graphic likening mitigation measures to a holey piece of Swiss cheese. Each of them individually would not stop the virus from spreading (including masks), only all five would smother the spread, it implied.
“These vaccines are the reason transmission of the virus in Michigan is at the lowest point in a year. However, as the school environment brings together large groups of individuals who may not yet be vaccinated, MDHHS is issuing this guidance to help protect Michiganders of all ages,” Whitmer’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said.
The recommendations are “designed to protect students, teachers and staff, and maintain in-person learning,” they said.
Student advocacy groups did not praise the recommendations.
“Gretchen Whitmer is recommending districts force kindergartners and elementary school students to wear masks at school next year, but she’s wrong,” Great Lakes Education Project Executive Director Beth DeShone said.
“The science is clear and it’s unambiguous. Vaccination rates are rising, and young children are at by far the lowest risk of contracting, experiencing serious symptoms from, or transmitting COVID-19,” she said.
DeShone said “parents have had enough” with Whitmer “telling our kids what they can do, when they can do it, and what they have to wear — without any scientific evidence to back her up.”
It is not clear if the Michigan Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — had any influence over crafting the recommendations. As restrictions on other sectors of society were eased, public health officials continued extreme measures in schools. Last month, documents released by a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the American Federation of Teachers — a leading teachers union — influenced CDC guidelines to delay the reopening of schools.
At least one school district, Hudsonville Public Schools, informed parents Friday it would not be adopting the MDHHS mandatory mask recommendation.
“At this point, masks will be optional for students,” Superintendent Dr. Doug VanderJagt said in an email to parents.
“We also will NOT be Covid testing students throughout the school year,” he said. “These are just recommendations, and we do not plan on testing students unless you as a parent would like your child tested.”
Last week, MDHHS said it was creating a “health resource advocate” program for schools and providing the individuals who would assist schools not only with testing for coronavirus, but also “whole-of-child” programs.
Dr. Nathasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS senior public health physician, said the intent would be “a whole health approach, rather than just on testing.”
“The key is getting these health resource advocates into the school who can do both: who can support testing, as well as look at the big picture,” she told school representatives.
While the new recommendations did not address testing student athletes, Bagdasarian said the agency wants them tested once a week.
After Breitbart News reported on the video presentation, the Whitmer-run agency made it private.