Grosse Pointe schools won't mandate masks, sparking heated debate at board meeting

A heated debate between parents at a Grosse Pointe schools meeting Monday underscored the growing tension in the U.S. this summer - to require masks or not to require masks.

On one side were parents upset the district would not be enforcing a mask mandate. And on the other side were parents that supported a more lax policy toward mitigating health measures like social distancing and face coverings. 

"Everybody wants to be back in-person learning, but I don't understand why we do not have mitigation strategies. Why would we not have our youngest learners who are not vaccinated being around a bunch of people who don't want to wear masks?" said one woman. 

Both the state and the federal government recommend masks in the fall for students. Ann Arbor is requiring them, while Utica is not. Detroit and Dearborn have yet to make decisions, but at least Detroit looks like it will require them.

The debate over masks in schools appears to be taking hold as one of the flashpoint issues for many at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine rates are still too low and the surge of new cases and hospitalizations are starting to worry health officials in Michigan. 

While masks have proven to be a significant tool in curbing the spread of the virus, most states have stopped short of mandating them again - although some have. Even as universities and government agencies start mandating vaccines, they've yet to have full approval from the U.S. government. 

Further complicating the problem is who is eligible for the vaccine. Kids age 11 and under cannot get the shot - yet. This is why the CDC and Michigan health officials recommend masks for the upcoming school year. 

RELATED: Unvaccinated people make up vast majority of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations in Metro Detroit

"In a pre-Covid world, we used to operate with a certain degree of risk assessment and common sense. So everyone wants to follow the science, but what does the science say about the masks? Do they work? The CDC says that they do," said another parent. "But a while back, Fauci said that they didn't. Now we know the virus particles are smaller than the weaves in the masks themselves."

In the early stages of the pandemic, the CDC said masks weren't necessary to curbing infection rates - but shifted its stance in April after new evidence came out showing how COVID-19 spread. More recently, the CDC reverted to an older policy of recommended everyone - including those vaccinated - wear masks in highly infectious areas. 

This comes after a new study found the Delta variant, the latest strain to mutate from the original virus, could move between vaccinated people.