WXMI — There’s no state-issued mask mandate for schools in Michigan, but on a call with members of the press Wednesday, the state’s top doctor said she had recommended it to the governor and director of the state health department.
The revelation comes the same day school districts in Allegan and Kalamazoo counties announced K-6th grade students and their teachers would be required to mask in schools, and several other districts have made the same determination. The CDC has also recommended masking in the classroom.
Wednesday’s press call was an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 and meant to share details about new transmission rates, and other pertinent data.
During the question-and-answer portion of the call, reporter Craig Mauger with the Detroit News asked Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, the state’s top epidemiologist, whether she’d recommended that the governor institute a statewide requirement that students wear masks in schools.
“I don’t know if that would really be a question for Dr. Lyon-Callo to answer, so I think we’re probably going to have to get back to you Craig,” said a spokesperson for MDHHS on the call after a long pause.
“She can’t answer that question?” Mauger followed up.
“That would not necessarily be in her per view,” replied the spokesperson.
Minutes later, Kristen Shamus with the Detroit Free press followed up.
“Given the data laid out here today, especially with the risk of transmission in schools, why isn’t MDHHS requiring masks now; mandating them like some other states have done?”
“I guess I don’t know if we have an answer for that question right now from Dr. Lyon-Callo. Once again, that would not be in her per view to make that mandate so once again Kristen, I can get back to you afterward.”
Dr. Lyon-Callo is the director of state epidemiology. After another follow-up, Dr. Khaldun, the chief medical officer for MDHHS, answered.
“I’ve said it before, I’m concerned about what is happening – what could potentially happen – with our schools. We have put out and updated our guidance last week and specifically recommended that schools implement a universal mask requirement so we can protect our students, keep them in-person learning,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“We do understand that there currently is a law that would allow us to be able to implement that mandate, but at this time, the governor and the director have not made that determination,” Dr. Khaldun continued.
Mike Wilkinson with Bridge Michigan followed up by asking if Dr. Khaldun did in fact recommend a mask mandate to the governor.
“Throughout this entire pandemic it has been my job to always recommend public health interventions and policies that’ll be protective and I’ve continued to do that throughout the past several weeks as well,” said Dr. Khaldun.
Andrew Feather with WWMT then asked for clarification from Dr. Khaldun.
“Did you specifically recommend to the governor and to the director of MDHHS that we implement a mask mandate in schools?” said Feather.
“I have recommended that if a mask mandate were in place and it were followed it would likely decrease the spread of COVID-19 n schools,” said Dr. Khaldun.
Kate Wells from Michigan Radio was given the last question.
“Has the governor then, Doctor Khaldun, given you any explanation or can you provide us any explanation on why were not doing that then?” said Wells. “The data on these slides is so stunning and the risk to these kids seems so strong, what is there to lose at this point by having the mask mandate?”
“I cannot speak to that,” said Dr. Khaldun. “I do know that my lane is to provide public health guidance but I also recognize that there are many other things that have to be considered when it comes to implementing a mandate.”
“Can you give us an idea though of some of those considerations so we can present them to people?” Wells followed up.
“I cannot at this time, I would defer to the director,” said Dr. Khaldun.
Dr. Khaldun said the MDHHS is working closely with local health departments to provide information on school safety.
Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for a vaccine.