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State sends letter to school superintendents urging 'layered' COVID precautions after holidays

Beenish Ahmed
Michigan Radio

With the Omicron variant of the coronavirus poised to sweep through Michigan and the U.S., state officials are advising Michigan schools to take multiple COVID-19 prevention measures when students return to class next week.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education outlined a series of suggested measures in a letter sent to school superintendents on Thursday.

“The most effective way to prevent transmission within school buildings and reduce prolonged disruptions to in-person learning is to layer multiple prevention strategies as recommended by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the letter reads.

It urges universal indoor masking in schools regardless of vaccination status, noting that “Mask use has been proven to substantially reduce transmission in school settings.”

The letter also strongly urges schools to adopt regular COVID testing programs. It urges districts to take advantage of the MI Safe Schools Testing Program, which allows them to order rapid antigen tests in bulk. MDHHS is now also offering the MI Backpack program, which offers free at-home COVID tests to students, staff, and their families.

Finally, the letter encourages districts to avoid holding large school-sponsored events with more than 100 people. And it urges schools to promote vaccination and hold vaccine clinics, saying that vaccination remains “the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow down transmission, prevent illness, and reduce the likelihood of newer variants emerging.”

However, all of these guidelines are voluntary. The state once again stopped short of mandating COVID protection measures in schools.

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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