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More Michigan counties order masks inside schools

September 2, 2021 GMT

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Ingham and Washtenaw counties on Thursday ordered that masks be worn inside all schools and other educational settings, becoming the latest counties to mandate face coverings amid Michigan’s fourth surge of COVID-19 cases.

Many K-12 districts in the Lansing area had already required masks at the start of classes.

“Unfortunately, our trends are going in the wrong direction and it’s crucial that we cover the gaps left behind in areas where mask requirements were not in place, including but not limited to day care centers, child care centers, preschools, youth programs and private schools,” Ingham health officer Linda Vail said in a statement.

As expected, Washtenaw County — home to Ann Arbor — issued a similar order Thursday. Both measures require people in educational settings to adhere to isolation protocols when there are infections. Genesee County in the Flint area, meanwhile, updated a previous mask order to also cover preK and grades seven through 12, not just grades K-6.

The office of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has refrained from reinstating a statewide mandate that was in place last academic year, said mask policies now cover at least 59% of kids in traditional public schools.

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Michigan’s 16 counties with orders include many with the largest populations but also some rural ones. Two health departments in northern Michigan have orders covering six counties.

The Benzie Central school board voted 5-2 Monday to ignore a health order in Benzie County and make masks optional next week. The move conflicts with the stance of Superintendent Amiee Erfouth that the district needs a universal mask policy and may prompt legal action from the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

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Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00