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Angry parents and others rally against Genesee County school mask mandate

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people turned out for a protest against Genesee County’s mask mandate for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“You the parents should be in control of you children’s educational experience,” said Matthew Smith, the chairman of the county Republican Party, which organized Wednesday’s protest.

The rally drew hundreds of people to the Genesee County Board of Health meeting, where dozens of people expressed anger at the mask mandate.

Genesee County Medical Health Officer, Dr. Pamela Hackert, announced the mandatelast week, as the county edged into the High category for covid infections.  

The mask order has limits. It does not apply when students are eating or drinking or engaged in outdoor activities. Some special needs students are also exempt.

But critics complain parents, not the county health department, should make the mask decision for their children. Others contend it’s just a bad idea.

April Delor is a former pre-school teacher. She told the county Board of Health that the mandate won’t work.

“There’s no way you’re ever going to get a little kid to keep a mask on,” Delor told the health board, “They wipe their face. They spread boogers. They throw up. They breathe in your face. It’s impossible.”

Others claim wearing masks is harming their children’s mental health. Others cited previously debunked claims about the ineffectiveness of masks.

Not everyone who spoke opposed the county health department’s mask mandate. Like other medical professionals, Dr. Bobby Mukkamala insists the mask mandate is needed. Mukkamala is the former president of the Michigan State Medical Society. He says the mask mandate makes sense since there are still many things we don’t know about COVID.

“What we do know is that the less virus Johnny inhales from Mary when she sneezes the better,” Mukkamala told the county health board members.

The Genesee County Board of Health voted down an effort to rescind the order.

Earlier Wednesday, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted against holding a special board meeting to review the mask mandate.

It appears unlikely that the commissioners would take any step toward striking down or limiting the order.

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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