LANSING, Mich. — Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail issued two public health orders this morning to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools. The emergency orders require masks in schools and detail quarantine and isolation procedures.
"We included preschools, day cares, vocational schools, and really set some definitions and guidelines that help include the extracurricular activities and other things that are going on in those buildings indoors," Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said.
Vail said 97 percent of students in Ingham County public schools already have a mask requirement in their district.
"We issued strong recommendations that the schools require masks. Some of them took that as a recommendation that they recommend, which is absolutely very clear that it was not...the repeated, 'Well, we did what you said because you recommended,' is exactly incorrect," Vail said.
Stockbridge was one of the school districts that only recommended masks, until a controversial vote on Monday night that made them required, starting today.
"First two days of school we had multiple cases and multiple quarantines," Stockbridge Superintendent Brian Friddle said.
Friddle said the health department's orders today are "very helpful."
"We knew this was going in this direction, and whatever we can do to keep our kids safe is what we wanted to do. The hard thing in this community is, there's mixed opinion on that. And so, it's been a struggle there," Friddle said.
Ingham County had a 515 percent increase in new cases for those 17 years and under from July to August.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also reported a five-fold increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among children in the last month, rising from approximately 38,000 cases at the end of July to 204,000 cases as of Aug. 26.
"And we're watching numbers go up. We're watching our hospitals get to capacity again. We're seeing cases increase in pediatric patients," Vail said. "We're watching more children get infected now. So, last year we didn't see as many children, and a lot of that probably has to do with vaccination rates. So, you have your elderly population, 65 and over, 97 percent vaccinated. This virus has to find a host. Right? You took that one away. It's going to find a new one. So, it just moves down to where it can find a susceptible host."
Vail said these orders are critical to keeping children in-school for face-to-face learning.
"We have teachers that could be exposed by kids, that may not be vaccinated, which means we lose teachers from schools," Vail said. "That happens too much, where are we going to get substitutes? The ramifications of this just expand through substitute teachers, substitute bus drivers, day care, parents having to stay home -- how does that then affect them and their employers?"
According to each district's COVID-19 dashboard as of Thursday, the active case numbers for each district in Ingham County are as follows: 13 in Stockbridge, 12 in Leslie, one in Dansville, six in Mason, six in East Lansing, 11 in Haslett, 15 in Holt, three in Lansing, nine in Okemos, four in Waverly, five in Williamston and one in Webberville.
Both orders will be effective at midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 7, and will remain in place until further notice.
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