KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Kent County health officials issued "the highest recommendation possible" but stopped short of mandating masks in K-12 schools this fall.
Administrative Health Officer Adam London says not all options have been exhausted to face the threat of the delta variant of COVID-19, which is significantly more contagious than the original strain of the virus.
In conclusion, I am not issuing a public health order mandating masks in the schools at this time. This decision is due to the reality that not all options have been exhausted to prevent the danger before us. The schools and the parents have even greater power than the health department to protect the children and the community in this instance. They are also better positioned to enforce such action. Under Michigan’s Revised School Code, public schools have a responsibility to provide for the safety and welfare of pupils while at school or a school sponsored activity. The authority of schools was affirmed by the Michigan Board of Education earlier this week when they approved a resolution that supports allowing local school districts to make “scientifically informed decisions” about whether to mandate COVID-19 masks for all students, teachers and visitors. To be clear, the Kent County Health Department has reviewed the science and we agree with conclusions of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, our local hospitals, our medical advisory workgroup, and the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed literature: the use of facial coverings in the school environment has been effective at significantly limiting COVID transmission.
The surge in cases comes just before the start of a new school year, and children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
London says he's concerned that concentrating unmasked and unvaccinated people indoors will result in even more transmission, which will spill over into the entire community and possibly overwhelm hospitals.
KCHD's statement comes on the heels of health officials from Spectrum Health emphasizing the negative outcomes children can have from the virus.
Both supporters of a mask mandate in Kent County schools and those opposing such a requirement rallied in Grand Rapids on Friday.
Read the full statement from the Kent County Health Department here: