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Gov. Whitmer releases back to school plan

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 18:49:11-04

LANSING, Mich. — As state health officials confirm 63,870 positive cases of COVID-19 with 5,947 total deaths as of Tuesday, June 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the Lansing-area has become a high-risk region.

Gov. Whitmer held a press conference Tuesday afternoon for the first time in weeks, providing an update on the state's COVID-19 response efforts.

As promised, the governor said her office would release a back to school roadmap June 30. During her press conference, the governor's office released the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap.

Whitmer's office said the plan outlines a number of safety protocols for schools to use in each phase of the governor's MI Safe Start Plan. In addition to the plan, the governor also signed Executive Order 2020-142,providing a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall.

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” said Governor Whitmer. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall. The MI SafeSchools Return to School Roadmap will help provide schools with the guidance they need as they enact strict safety measures to continue protecting educators, students, and their families. I will continue working closely with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in epidemiology and public health to ensure we get this right, but we also need more flexibility and financial support from the federal government. This crisis has had serious implications on our budget, and we need federal support if we’re going to get this right for our kids.”

The executive order requires all school districts to adopt a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan laying out how they will protect students and educators across the various phases of the MI Safe Start Plan.

Whitmer's office said the roadmap offers guidelines in regard to the types of safety protocols that will be required or recommended at each phase.

In addition, the governor said she will be allocating $256 million to support the districts in implementing their local plans as part of the bipartisan budget agreement the senate majority leader, the speaker of the house and the governor announced Tuesday.

The governor's office said the safety protocols outlined in the roadmap include guidance on the use of PPE, good hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, spacing in classrooms, screening for symptoms, athletics and more.

In addition to physical health, the governor's office said the roadmap also offers information on how schools can address mental health issues in students and staff following the impact of COVID-19.

“All of us on the Return to Learn Advisory Council share a commitment to marrying science and evidence, and practicality and local needs to ensure the health and safety of our students and educators,” said Tonya Allen, President and CEO of The Skillman Foundation and Chair of the Return to Learn Advisory Council. “We are proud to have a leader in the governor’s office who is committed to working with parents, teachers, and students to make sure we get this right. We will remain vigilant and flexible, helping ensure safety protocols are in place in every Michigan school.”

During her press conference, the governor was joined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun who said cases of COVID-19 are increasing in every sector of the state.

Dr. Khaldun also said young people are not immune to COVID-19.

"They can even die from COVID-19," Dr. Khaldun said. "This is not a joke."

She also said the state is continuing to expand testing. She said the state is able to conduct 16,000 tests per day.

During her press conference, despite hopes to move the state into Phase 5 by the Fourth of July, the governor said that is not going to happen as cases are rising across the state.

In addition to announcing her back to school roadmap, the governor also extended her executive order suspending policies lifting certain requirements of the application process for young residents to get a work permit, also allowing local governments to use alternative means other than mass mailings to send out hearing notifications, the governor's office announced.

“It is important that young Michiganders — an essential part of our workforce — have an opportunity to find a summer job, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many workers must stay home when experiencing symptoms or because they are part of a vulnerable population, and for local governments to continue serving their residents while also practicing social distancing to keep their employees safe,” Governor Whitmer said. “By extending these two executive orders, we ensure our economy can slowly and safely reopen, protect the dedicated men and women on the front lines of this pandemic, and ensure that local government can remain open, accessible and transparent.”

Under Executive Order 2020-140, works permits required by the Youth Employment Standards Act can be mailed, emailed, faxed or sent via web instead of the previously required in-person submission. The order takes effect immediately and will last through July 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Executive Order 2020-141 allows notice of any public hearing required to take place under a tax abatement statute to be provided electronically and by newspaper. The order takes effect immediately and will last through July 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

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