State health, education departments remind schools of COVID danger post-winter break

Both departments sent a letter reiterating layered approaches to fend off COVID
Posted at 6:44 PM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 19:23:46-05

MICHIGAN — In anticipation of kids returning to class after winter break, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education sent a letter to all Michigan superintendents reminding them of safety measures that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Kids will be returning to class as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the state.

“This is just a good reminder of those things that we know work,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel told FOX 17 on Thursday. “I hope that [schools] don’t view it as pulling back a little bit. I think that they should still be able to function fairly normally.”

Hertel says the letter is serving only as a reminder to administrators that layered approaches work best in preventing spread of the virus.

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Masking, more robust testing and distancing should be priorities for districts, the department says. MDHHS also recommended that gatherings with more than 100 people be canceled or moved to a remote setting.

MDE and MDHHS are also trying to make it easy for districts to get tests. Hertel says 130 schools have already signed up for their MI Backpack program, which sends kids home with two rapid tests in their backpacks so families can have them at home, free of charge.

As for a move back to remote learning, that’s something Hertel doesn’t see happening.

“I don’t anticipate seeing that at all,” she said. “We have the tools that we need to keep people safe.”

As for any new mandates on testing or masking, Hertel doesn’t see that as a possibility either, but admitted that schools could’ve done more to keep kids safe during the first school semester.

“We could’ve done a lot better keeping more kids in the classroom if we had more schools adopting a universal masking policy,” she said. “We saw a very stark difference in case rates between school districts that did and school districts that did not.”

It’s not just about the students — Hertel also noted that staffing has been difficult for many districts as cases rise.

“I know that there have been some districts who’ve had to close a day or a couple days because they’re short staffed,” she said.

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