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Whitmer: Don't expect school mask mandate from state

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium

“There are no plans to do any broad mandates” regarding COVID-19 mitigation in Michigan schools. That’s the message Governor Gretchen Whitmer is now putting out. It comes as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is facing growing criticism and frustration for refusing to issue a mask mandate for K-12 schools.

Mandatory masking in schools has become a politically contentious issue. That’s despite nearly universal scientific agreement that it’s needed to control the spread of COVID-19. Virtually every public health agency or organization nationwide, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, recommends it, regardless of vaccination status.

But Michigan is leaving the decision up to school districts. So far, the majority of them have not made masks mandatory—though a growing number of school districts have in the past few days, and a handful of counties haveissued public health orders to that effect.

On Monday, Governor Whitmer defended her administration’s decision to issue “strong recommendations” on school masking and other COVID-19 mitigation measures, rather than mandates.

“We know that districts in large measure wanted the ability to make those decisions at the local level. We’re encouraging them to follow the CDC guidance,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer said she’s optimistic that more school districts will adopt state recommendations in the near future. “I’m hopeful that more will continue to do that, because we do think it’s the right thing to do right now,” she said.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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