LANSING, Mich. — Michigan health officials issued on Wednesday updated recommendations for schools designed to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 in school buildings.
Their goal is also to reduce disruptions to in-person learned, and to help protect vulnerable individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated, according to a news release.
The guidance was updated to reflect the most current recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on masking and prevention strategies to help schools operate more safely.
It includes guidance on assessing risk levels when making decisions about implementing layered prevention strategies against COVID-19.
“We are committed to ensure Michigan students and educators are safe in the classroom, including those who may not yet be vaccinated,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “MDHHS is issuing this guidance to help protect Michiganders of all ages. We continue to urge all eligible residents to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible as it is our best defense against the virus and the way we are going to end this pandemic.”
The key strategies recommended by the CDC to keep schools safer include:
- Promoting vaccination against COVID-19 for eligible staff and students
- Universal indoor masking for all educators, staff, students and visitors to schools – regardless of vaccination status
- Wearing masks on all public transportation, including school buses
- Maintaining at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms
- Screening testing to identify cases, including those without symptoms who may be contagious
- Improving ventilation by opening multiple doors and windows, using child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows and making changes to the HVAC or air filtration systems
- Avoiding crowded and/or poorly ventilated indoor activities and engaging in outdoor activities whenever possible
- Open or crack windows in buses and other forms of transportation to improve air circulation, if doing so does not pose a safety risk
- Promoting handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes
- Encouraging students and staff to stay home if sick or having COVID-19 symptoms, and encouraging them – regardless of vaccination status – to get tested for the virus if they have symptoms or if in close contact with someone who has COVID-19
- Contact tracing in combination with quarantine, collaborating with the local health department
- Cleaning and disinfecting once a day
In addition, MDHHS says the following factors should be used when determining mitigation strategies:
- Level of community transmission of COVID-19
- COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the community and among students, teachers and staff
- Use of a frequent screening testing program for students, teachers and staff who are not fully vaccinated
- COVID-19 outbreaks or increasing trends in the school or surrounding community
- Ages of children served in the school and risk associated with school, extracurricular and social activities
Grand Rapids Public Schools is "strongly recommending" masks for all students and COVID-19 vaccinations for all who are eligible.
The district released the following guidance Wednesday afternoon:
- "Universal indoor masking for all students, staff, and visitors to PK-12 schools is strongly recommended, regardless of vaccination status.
- All unvaccinated students and staff who are eligible are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact KCHD or your health care provider to schedule your vaccination.
- Masks do not need to be worn outdoors for recess or outdoor learning activities for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
- Athletics will continue to adhere to the rules set forth by the Michigan High School Athletic Association and guidance from the MDHHS and KCHD.
- Layered mitigation strategies will continue, including handwashing and respiratory etiquette, hand sanitizer, ventilation, and cleaning of classrooms and buildings.
- The COVID-19 Daily Health Screener is no longer required for students and staff. Students and staff should stay home if they are experiencing one or more of the COVID-19 symptoms.
- Families and staff will continue to be notified if they or their student has had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. Quarantine will only be required if unvaccinated students or staff live with a COVID-19 positive person OR if there is an outbreak in a school per the KCHD public health order still in place.
- All students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status must quarantine."