NOVI, Mich. — Michigan Health officials are working closely with pediatricians and talking to parents about the importance of getting children, age 12 and older, vaccinated for COVID-19.
Currently, 25 percent of children age 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate increases to about 36 percent for those age 16 to 19.
And while state health officials say there is not a surge in cases of COVID-19 among children, there is an increase that's causing them to pay close attention.
"We are concerned because there are indications that our cases are slowly climbing up from where they were even a month ago," said Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
As many parents prepare for their children to return to school, many districts are preparing for students to return to the classroom for in-person instruction.
In Novi, about 5 percent of their 6,700 students will continue with virtual instruction for reasons that include social anxiety and health concerns.
"Some of our parents and students had great success last year in the virtual school," said Novi Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Matthews, adding that for most students, school will look much like it did pre-COVID.
When it comes to masks, Dr. Matthews said it will be optional for students and staff, and they are recommending COVID-19 vaccination for anyone who is eligible.
State health officials are not planning on a mask mandate for schools.
"We will continue to follow the CDC guidance, and, yes, for those who are unvaccinated especially, wearing masks indoors is the current recommendation," said Dr. Khaldun. "As with a lot of recommendations throughout the pandemic, we continue to monitor trends and update the recommendations as we receive more data and recommendations from the CDC."
Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all students and staff wear masks while in school.
“As we start the 2021-’22 school year, a large portion of students are not eligible to be vaccinated and there are COVID variants that are more contagious," said Dr. Sonja O'Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee. "Because of this and because we want to have all students in school, the AAP advocates for all students, teachers and staff to wear masks while indoors in school."
Novi Public Schools' Dr. Matthews wishes the recommendations were consistent across the board.
"There is this, kind of, information overload and you just wish that all of them could get together and agree on what the message is," Matthews said. "And while I appreciate the ability to control, locally, what we do, it is frustrating when districts around us are left to figure that out themselves.
"Parents will point to, 'District A is doing this ... and District B is doing this ... why are you doing this?' So, if it's really important, they should mandate it and not just recommend it," he added.