CHARLOTTE, Mich. — Masks are back to being recommended and not required at Charlotte Public Schools after the health department lifted the mask mandate, and parent Anna Loveless said she felt a sigh of relief dropping her daughter off at school Friday morning.
“We’re just so happy and so relieved that she can go to school and breathe freely and not feel the pressure to mask up,” she said.
Loveless said she was devastated when the mandate from the Barry-Eaton District Health Department went into effect. She feels it should be a parents choice whether a child has to wear a mask.
“It’s a medical decision and I feel very firmly that as a parent we’re allowed to make medical decisions for our children," Loveless said. "And it’s really important that we’re the only ones that make those choices for our kids. We know what’s best for our kids.”
But not everyone is feeling a sigh of relief. Research shows that masks are an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and are more effective when more people wear them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone in schools should mask up, even if they're vaccinated.
Colleen Egleston has a son at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School in Barry County where masks are back to being optional. Hearing the mandate was lifted was extremely concerning to her.
"Because masks work. And I thought for the first time in a long time we were headed in the direction where we were listening to the data and the science. We weren't listening to people's opinions or alternate facts. Mask work," Egleston said.
Egleston said she hopes health department officials rethink their decision.
“I think they need to reconsider and they need to not hide behind the politics and do their job and protect our children,” said Egleston.
The department dropped the mandate due to “boilerplate language” in the 2022 state budget that restricts money to local health departments with local emergency orders. That's despite the fact that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said those provisions are unconstitutional and unenforceable.
Charlotte Public Schools superintendent Mandy Stewart said there was no indication that the order was going to be lifted before the announcement.
“We had a meeting the day before on Wednesday and there hadn’t been an indication of this. So communication had to get out quickly,” Stewart said.
Officials with the Barry-Eaton District Health Department declined to do an interview but did say “we were in communication with our schools before making the announcement to the public.”
“We urge our local school districts and other educational settings to continue to implement universal masking policies and follow quarantine best practices," health officer Colette Scrimger said in a press release Thursday night. "It’s critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 within schools and our communities."
The Grand Ledge and Eaton Rapids school districts have mask mandates of their own which are still in force even though the health departments mandate has been dropped.
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