DETROIT - Wayne County has joined Oakland County in mandating masks for the upcoming school year. The order goes into effect immediately and includes all students, staff regardless of vaccination. It pertains to schools and daycare providers.
The decision affects some 220,000 students in dozens of K-12 school districts throughout the county.
Wayne County is the latest governing body to decide on masks after a difficult summer for school boards that featured arguments between parents and shout-fests during board meetings.
Masks in schools have become the latest flashpoint debate over safety precautions versus personal freedoms during the pandemic. Since emergency lockdowns were first ordered in March of 2020 in Michigan and subsequent epidemic orders, similar arguments have unspooled in different sectors of the economy, education, and among each other.
Both Oakland and Macomb County drew their line in the metaphorical sand this week when the former's health division ordered its schools would mandate masks. That decision drew protests. Macomb County's decision not to mandate masks, leaving the decision to local school boards, also drew protests - but for the opposite reason.
Health officials have recommended masks as the most pragmatic tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19 in schools while maintaining in-person learning - a dynamic that most officials agree should be a priority for the fall and spring semesters.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has affirmed her choice to not order mask mandates across the state, arguing it should be a locally-made decision.
In addition to Oakland and Wayne, Kalamazoo, Allegan, Kent, Ottawa, and Genesee County have also issued some kind of mask mandate for school districts.
(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)