ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — The order requiring masks in kindergarten through sixth grade in Allegan County schools was rescinded Thursday. This comes after the Allegan County Board of Commissioners did not support the health department's mandate.
The Allegan County Health Department (ACHD) says that if they upheld the mandate, they could be fined over $1 million due to Senate Bill 82. The bill states that health departments issuing emergency orders to combat COVID-19 may lose funding.
While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has stated the language in the bill is "unconstitutional," legal advisors to the health department encouraged officials to rescind the mandate until legal rulings prove otherwise.
“The decision to rescind the K-6 Mask Requirement was not made lightly and has challenged us ethically, professionally, and personally,” states Health Officer, Angelique Joynes, MPH, RN. “However, we cannot risk our essential local public health services funding, which is around $1 million of our total budget and provides the ability for us to continue to offer those services.”
In an attempt to receive the necessary support to uphold the mandate, the ACHD asked the board to add the topic to their Sept. 30 agenda. The board acknowledged the request but did not include it in the agenda.
The decision to require masks is now up to individual school districts. The ACHD is still encouraging districts to consider mask mandates and enact COVID-19 safety protocols like social distancing, hand washing and regular testing.
“Our children are a vulnerable population where it is incredibly important to layer all effective mitigation strategies – which includes universal masking in the school setting – to protect them,” explains ACHD Medical Director Dr. Richard Tooker. “We strongly recommend all local boards of education and school leaders to adopt evidence-based public health practices and put a universal masking requirement in place within their school settings to continue protecting their students and staff from the ongoing risk of COVID-19.”
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