Requiring masks in school is political hot potato state leaders seem to be avoiding

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has steadfastly refused to issue a state mandate that all school children mask up for the upcoming fall semester.

But the state's chief medical advisor said for the first time she told the governor if a mandatory mask mandate was in place, "it would likely decrease the spread of Covid-19 in schools."

The governor is recommending that masks be used by children, teachers and staffs this fall. But when pressed on why she is not issuing a mandate, the governor reports she and the GOP legislature thought the right thing to do was let local school boards make that call.

During an audio media briefing on Covid today the first question was, had anybody in the health department made a recommendation to the governor to do the mandate.  the spokeswoman for the department offered an opinion.

When asked why the department was not issuing a mandate, Lynn Sutfin from the Michigan Health Department offered this:

"I don't know if that would really be a question for (a doctor) to answer, I think we'll have to get back to you," she said. "I guess I don't know if we have an answer on that question right now."

What the spokeswoman did not reveal, is that somebody was on the line who could have answered those questions - the governor's chief medical advisor Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

She was asked if she made the mandatory mask recommendation to the governor.

"My job is to always recommend public health interventions and policies that would be protective," she said. "I have continued to do that throughout the past several weeks as well."

When Khaldun was then asked if she "specifically" make that recommendation for the first time, she said:

"I have recommended that if a mask mandate were in place, and it were to be followed, it would likely decrease the spread of Covid -19 in schools," she said.

The Senate GOP leader Mike Shirkey dismissed the mandatory mask mandate as the "dumbest thing to do."

Dr. Khaldun does not agree, but she could not explain why the governor was rejecting the public health recommendation and looking at other things.

"I can't speak to that," Khladun said. "I do know that my lane is to provide public health guidance but I also recognize there are many things that need to be considered when it comes to implementing (policy)."

Reporter: "Can you give us an idea what those considerations are, so we can present them to people?"

"I cannot at this time. I would defer to the director," Khaldun said.

Public Health Director Elizabeth Hertel was on the call "but not able to hear the entire briefing."