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Washtenaw, Ingham Counties issue school mask mandates

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Add Washtenaw and Ingham counties to the list of jurisdictions with school mask mandates.

The local health departments announced the new orders Thursday morning, just days before most schools were set to return.

In both counties, all pre-K-12 students will be required to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The rules apply for anyone in an educational institution, including faculty and staff.

The rules apply to all public, private, vocational, and charter schools in the counties, and includes extracurricular activites.

Exemptions to the mask mandate include anyone who is eating or drinking, children under four years (although masks are recommended for any child over two), anyone who has a developmental condition in which a mask would impede their access to education, and anyone with a medical reason for non-compliance as confirmed in writing by a medical doctor.

Both counties also issued orders requiring people in schools to isolate or quarantine if they've been exposed to COVID-19.

Ingham County's seen a more than 500% increase in new cases among kids and teens from July to August, health officials said in a press release.

“We are grateful for the collaboration with our local schools and districts that have already required masks and continue to work with us on isolation and quarantine procedures,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “Unfortunately, our trends are going in the wrong direction and it’s crucial that we cover the gaps left behind in areas where mask requirements were not in place, including but not limited to daycare centers, childcare centers, preschools, youth programs, and private schools.”

A total of 15 Michigan counties have now issued some form of a school mask mandate, including Wayne, Oakland, Kent, and Genessee Counties.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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