Ingham County drops mask mandate as other Michigan counties weigh similar move

Ingham County on Thursday lifted indoor masking requirements at Lansing-area schools and colleges starting Feb. 19, citing a drop in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Other Michigan counties may follow suit in coming days, leaving it up to schools to decide whether to mandate face coverings.

Ingham’s health officer issued mask and quarantine/isolation orders more than five months ago, near the start of the school year.

"We are at a point in this pandemic in which public health strategies will begin to shift more towards personal responsibility as we learn to live with COVID-19 long term," Linda Vail said in a written statement that strongly recommended face coverings in public indoor settings including schools.

She pointed to a 78% decline in the county’s case rate over two weeks. First-dose vaccination rates for 5- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 15-year-olds are nearly 40% and 62%, above the statewide averages of 26% and 47.5%, she said.

Vail urged schools to maintain strict masking policies, especially in areas with substantial or high transmission levels.

Three of the state’s most populated counties still require masks in schools: Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw in the Detroit area. So do the Health Department of Northwest Michigan — which covers Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties — and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department.

Lisa Peacock, the two agencies’ health officer, indicated this week that the mask requirements could soon be rescinded for those six counties. Washtenaw, home to Ann Arbor, likely will make an announcement related to its order Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration lifted a broad statewide mask mandate in June after it had been in effect for more than a year.