Oakland County Health Department mandates masks for schools K-12

As the debate over masks rages on at school board meetings throughout the state and country, the Oakland County Health Department is making the decision for schools and requiring masks for all students and staff in schools from K-12 to protect against COVID-19.

The Health Department for the state's second-largest county sent a press release Tuesday requiring that all students, faculty, and staff wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status in all schools - public or private.

The Health Dept. said factual determinations were what spurred the order.

"Factual findings include: The virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person-to-person, primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person or carrier coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can
enter the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely
to occur when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)," the release said.

The Delta variant has become the dominant strain of Covid in Michigan which also factored into the order, according to the county health department.

"The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the dominant variant in Michigan and is significantly more contagious than the original form that entered the United States in winter 2020," the department said. "Current research indicates the Delta variant may cause more serious illness in persons of all ages, including children. 

Kids wear masks as they return to school in Hillsborough County in August of 2021.

"West Michigan cases have already emerged in which previously healthy infants, children, and teens have faced hospitalization, life support, life-threatening complications (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children) and chronic symptoms (Long COVID-19)."

While the previous strain of COVID-19 had a lesser impact on younger people, the Delta strain has proven to be more dangerous with more children being hospitalized, the department said.

"COVID-19 infections and COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing among children in the United States, with over
180,000 children testing positive the week of August 12-19, according to a report from the American Academy
of Pediatrics (AAP)," said the release. "This is an increase from the week prior when just over 120,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported."

Prior to Oakland County's announcement, schools had each been left to make their own decisions about whether or not to mask. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued recommendations that schools require masks but stopped short of mandating them.

That left the decision to school leadership - many of whom felt unprepared to make decisions on health.

"Superintendents are not medical professionals but lately important decisions regarding medical health issues have come to rest on school administrators," Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan said.

The decision comes as there have been raucous school board meetings throughout Metro Detroit as school leaders consider whether to require masks.

In Birmingham, one parent was removed from a school board meeting after giving a Nazi salute and reportedly saying "Heil Hitler" after a parent spoke in support of masks.

The school board deleted that portion of the meeting because of the nature of the action.

"We don't want to show our children that this is OK, that it's OK for someone to get away with something this hateful," said a parent whose child attends Birmingham schools.