Wayne County weighing mask mandate for students, plans to release guidance Friday

Oakland County will mandate masks in schools and Macomb County will not. Wayne County is next on the list to decide.

It's expected to release guidelines Friday that will no doubt contribute to the back-and-forth that every county has witnessed between parents and school boards. However, with the health department ruling on the issue, it may divert the patchwork solution that's taken place around the state and solidify a larger safety strategy.

Tiffani Jackson, a spokeswoman for Wayne County's executive said a ruling should come around noon today.

If they do issue a mask mandate for schools, Wayne County's health department can expect more of the same treatment that Oakland County's health division received this week when hundreds of parents and teens lined up outside the building to express their anger. 

A protest among parents uninterested in mask mandates is expected outside the Wayne County health department today. 

RELATED: Hundreds protest Oakland County's mask ruling

While very few counties in Michigan have ordered such a ruling, with Kent, Genesee, Allegan, and Ottawa, and Oakland siding with mask rules, they do represent a big portion of the students in Michigan. And that could have a large influence over the makeup of Michigan's next surge of COVID-19 cases.

Health officials have already given their take: masks work at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and will be effective at lowing the chance that students contract the virus. That's important because the Delta variant and any subsequent mutations of the virus have become increasingly effective at evading the vaccine's protection from transmitting the disease. 

It could also pose a greater threat to young people than previous mutations. Anyone under the age of 12 can't get the vaccine, leaving young people among the most threatened populations.

RELATED: A similar treatment with an opposite argument; parents protest lack of mask ruling in Macomb County

For Wayne County, the most populated county in the state with hundreds of thousands of students, it could spell trouble if the disease is allowed to roam freely.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said the alternative to masks was moving students to virtual settings when outbreaks occur - something that many students might dislike just as much as wearing a mask. 

Data from the health department estimates that without masking in a school, the chances of someone catching the virus rises to 50% after just 24 hours from the moment an infected student walks into a room. With mask rules in effect, 24 hours becomes 120 hours.