Where is the mandate of the mask? Parents’ coalition calls on Michigan government to require masks in schools

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Frustrated by what they call “science deniers,” a coalition of statewide parent groups is launching a petition calling on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to demand universal masking in schools.

The Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools is hoping to collect thousands of signatures and convince state officials to do what Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently hesitated to do – supplant local control.

To protect vulnerable children, many of whom are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, they want everyone, regardless of their immunization status, to wear masks inside school buildings, as health agencies recommend federal and state authorities and the American Academy of Pediatrics to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The group says it opposes “anti-mask mobs” threatening school boards and local leaders across the state, where the issue has sparked controversial debates on the streets and in crowded meeting rooms. The opposition questions the effectiveness of masks, fears they hinder learning or cause anxiety and praise parental choice.

RELATED: Tyranny and Parental Choice Among Arguments Parents Used to Oppose Kent County Mask Mandate

“We urge all of our decision makers to listen to a majority of parents who have remained silent so far. We wear masks. We get vaccinated and we respect everyone’s right to be free from a highly contagious disease in the midst of a pandemic, ”Kent County mother Marie Griffioen said on a call Wednesday. with journalists.

“When I see people carrying ‘Unmask Our Children’ signs and heckling doctors at school board meetings, I see cowardly adults waving the white flag of surrender to this virus.”

Griffioen is part of the Smart Science Alliance, a group in western Michigan that promotes school masking. She took part in a demonstration in August and said she had been called a fascist, child abuser and sheep. She joined three other mothers, a pediatrician and a member of the Eastpointe school board when the online petition was launched on September 15.

“To those parents who ignore COVID because it wasn’t that bad or their child didn’t get so sick, we ask them to try and imagine their child becoming very sick from COVID-19, or pass it on to a loved one, or both. We are asking for empathy here. Just a little empathy, ”said Griffioen, whose son, a high school student, was exposed to the coronavirus on the first day of school.

Like Griffioen, most of the Wednesday speakers come from counties with local health service mandates, Oakland, Kent and Ottawa counties. Two live in Macomb County, the most populous county in the state with no school mask requirement. (To protect them and their workplaces from potential harassment or intimidation, they asked reporters to avoid specific identifiers, such as hometowns.)

When the County of Ottawa enacted a warrant, it was a “huge relief” for Kathleen Lucas, a relative there. “We are lucky. Our children were able to return to school with some protection in place. Almost half of Michigan’s school families, however, are not so fortunate.

Fewer than 20 health departments have issued orders, and about 43% of Michigan’s traditional public school districts require masks, according to information gathered by the governor’s office.

RELATED: Find out which Michigan public school districts require masks

Since many of the state’s largest school districts, including Detroit, Ann Arbor, Rochester and Grand Rapids, require face covers, a majority of students, around 61%, are masked, the Whitmer office notes.

Emily Mellits, a parent in Macomb County who led Wednesday’s meeting, highlighted the remaining 40%. “We will continue to fight for them.

Wearing a mask is the “bare minimum” that people can do, she said.

The coalition says it is focusing on masks because it is a simple measure to implement.

“Universal use of masks in indoor environments where transmission of COVID-19 is high or high, is just not negotiable,” said Dr. Rosemary Olivero, West Michigan pediatric infectious disease specialist with three children in a public school. She spoke in favor of the petition.

“The lack of a universal mass mandate in the state of Michigan has not only left our children vulnerable to COVID-19, but also unvaccinated and fragile members of our community. This will undoubtedly put us back in our ability to control the pandemic and live safely with this virus. “

She said there had been examples across the country in warrantless states of masked epidemics and extensive school closings, hospital stays and serious illnesses among children who had not. not yet had access to the vaccine.

Although the best doctor in the state recommended it, Michigan opted for a statewide warrant.

“Each of us has the tools we need to stay safe, and that’s why we encourage these decisions to be made locally. It increases the chances that people will follow and buy into them, ”Whitmer said recently.

Families shouldn’t have to rely on school boards for pandemic advice, said Mary Hall-Rayford, who sits on the Eastpointe Community Schools Board of Trustees, which issued a mandate. “Because we have no expertise in epidemiology, infectious diseases and massive losses… This is why we have health services, doctors, scientists and infectious disease specialists. “

She said some school boards follow the science and demand masks and then face threats of violence. The other councils will not vote because the members are afraid. Some quit because of bullying and harassment.

“People join the school board to serve families and give back to their communities, not to receive death threats,” said Hall-Rayford, wearing a red t-shirt that read, “Value students, respect educators . “

By putting politics above the safety of children, “science-denying politicians and their supporters” are putting everything at risk, said Nicole Kessler, a relative in Oakland County. “And they disrespect the families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. “

Kessler’s 10-year-old son was born prematurely and spent his first three weeks in intensive care. He has since been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and abnormalities in the structure of his ears threaten to make him deaf, Kessler said.

His family braced for the reality that his son could lose his hearing completely by the time he graduates. “What we are not ready or willing to accept is that a preventable and preventable disease like COVID-19 will accelerate his hearing loss.”

Countless parents are outraged, she said.

She mentioned the recent anniversary of September 11, 2001 and noted, like terrorists, the virus threatens Americans. Far fewer soldiers have died in the decades of war that followed than people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, she said.

“We can repel the spread of COVID-19 if we all do our duty and put on a mask. “

Learn more about MLive:

Outbreaks reported in 69 Michigan schools last week

Whitmer has built a national reputation for fighting COVID-19 with strict restrictions. This is no longer his tactic.

Parents and students protest against school mask mandate in Genesee County

Manchester students unmasked enter building to protest warrant

The president of the school board resigns for harassment following the mandate of the K-12 mask: “It’s a no-win situation”

Weighing the risks of COVID vaccines against the risk of the COVID virus

Michigan researchers estimate combination vaccination and natural immunity rate


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