LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education sent a letter to superintendents Thursday urging schools to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after winter break.
It’s in anticipation of the highly transmissible omicron variant and officials say the steps are meant to keep schools open in the coming months.
MDHHS emphasized the importance of everyone 5 and older getting vaccinated against the virus, including with a booster dose when eligible. Schools should – where possible – host vaccine clinics for students, families, teachers and staff.
“Our priority has remained keeping students safe,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said. “Children ages 5 and older now can get vaccinated. In addition to vaccination, we strongly recommend universal masking for students, teachers and staff. We have the tools to keep Michiganders safe and we must continue to use them.”
Regular testing was another recommendation, helping identify even asymptomatic individuals who may be contagious.
MDHHS is offering rapid antigen testing to K-12 schools through the MI Safe Schools Testing Program and through the MI Backpack Program, which offers free, at-home COVID-19 tests to students, their families, teachers and school staff.
Health officials also want schools to review their plans for events and gatherings, urging social distancing, remote technology for large events and postponing those events that aren’t essential.
Large gatherings would include events with large numbers of people from multiple households, such as conferences, meetings, sporting events and concerts.
Wearing masks (regardless of vaccination status), washing hands often, maintaining social distance wherever possible and getting staff and students vaccinated all remain important safety measures, officials said, with layered strategies implemented at the same time providing the greatest level of protection.