Michigan State Board of Education leaving mask decisions up to school districts

The state health department recommends them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends them. Even Beaumont doctors and county health leaders say they should be worn. 

But come the fall school year, it will be up to education districts to decide whether or not to require face masks for students, staff, and faculty while in the classroom.

The Michigan Board of Educators opted for a hands-off approach Tuesday, voting to allow districts to decide whether to make masks required for entering the building, even as the pandemic is on another tear through the U.S.

Not everyone was pleased with the decision. Members of the public threatened to take their students out of the district their children were enrolled in if a mask order was implemented. But, in the end, the board said it would support the districts' decisions - including mandates.

While local control is the overarching take on mask rules, health officials are largely in agreement on their use. "It's just not safe," Beaumont Dr. Matthew Sims said of not having children - especially those too young to be eligible to get a vaccine - to wear a mask.

RELATED: 'It's just not safe' Beaumont doctors say kids need masks in school

"Pediatric patients actually are asymptomatic carriers - they can spread the virus to others in the community," said Dr. Sandy Patel.  "The more virus that's present in the community, the more chances of a mutant virus to evolve as we are seeing with the Delta."

Some states are seeing a notable uptick in child hospitalizations linked to COVID-19. In southern states where the virus is flaring, hospitals are reporting dozens of children in the ICU with extreme symptoms. 

That's not the case in Michigan. Right now, doctors say pediatric hospitalizations remain low. But Michigan COVID-19 cases are on the rise and infection rates are starting to worry health experts.

"We've been seeing a steady rise in the number of admitted patients back at the beginning of July," Sims said. "We were down to some 30 patients across the entire system - now we're up to about 150 patients across the system."

RELATED: Oakland County health workers point to 2020 successes for mask guidance

That's why masks have become the premier way to slow the spread, and in the wake of a troubling decline in new vaccination rates, might be the best way to curb the spread.

"Nobody was happy during 2020," Dr. Russell Faust, medical director of the Oakland County Health Division said. "But on the flip side was we didn't see any flu in 2020 in Oakland County, probably nationally, in places where masks were mandated. We didn't have the common cold running through families like mine, for example."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has previously said she will not be implementing another face mask mandate. 

But whether schools decide to implement them is another question - and a decision only they can make. Detroit and Ann Arbor will. But Utica and Grosse Pointe will not. 

The only place that masks are required are on buses - and that's because of a federal mandate from the transportation department.