The Washtenaw County Health Department announced an indoor mask mandate and quarantine requirement Thursday morning for all K-12 schools due to rising COVID-19 cases in the county. The order is effective Tuesday, Sep. 9.
If an individual violates either order, they may be fined.
The order comes in light of the recently reported increase in transmission levels of COVID-19 in the county, which had an average of 53 cases per day last week. On Wednesday, there were 117 confirmed cases and two hospitalizations.
The indoor mask mandate applies to everyone indoors in private, public, vocational and charter K-12 schools as well as extracurriculars or athletics affiliated with schools. These orders will be in effect until community transmission is classified as “moderate,” lower for at least 14 days or “until further notice.”
The indoor mask order will not apply to those actively eating or drinking, swimming alone, or for anyone under the age of 4. The mask mandate also exempts students for which a face mask will hinder their ability to learn or students with any medical conditions that are confirmed by a practicing Michigan doctor.
The other component of the order requires unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19 as well as vaccinated individuals who have symptoms to isolate and quarantine for at least 10 days after exposure, and will remain in effect until further notice.
Those who were exposed in a bus or classroom while wearing masks are allowed to go to school, but must be tested. Fully vaccinated asymptomatic individuals and those who had COVID-19 in the past 90 days are also exempt from the quarantine mandate.
Jimena Loveluck, Washtenaw County Health Department health officer, said in a press release Thursday these orders are important to limiting the spread of COVID-19 in Washtenaw County.
“We are grateful to our local schools and districts that have already done the work to require masks and that continue to work closely with us on isolation and quarantine measures,” Loveluck said. “Unfortunately, we are trending in the wrong direction, and it’s imperative that we use all of our tools to prevent and control COVID in educational settings and provide in-person learning as safely as possible.”
Loveluck said the new variants of COVID-19, including delta and others that may come in the future, have contributed to the recent rise in cases in the county and provide good reason for people to abide by the orders.
“We have evidence of low transmission in classrooms, and this is good news for maintaining in-person learning,” Loveluck said. “But we cannot remove key components like masks, isolation, and quarantine and expect similar results.”
The University of Michigan also announced this week that there will be updated COVID-19 response metrics in response to the more transmissible delta variant. If a certain metric of new cases is met, mitigation measures such as increased testing, outdoor mask requirements and limited classroom seating may be considered.
Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org