OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — While the face mask mandate in Ottawa County schools is lifting in January 2022, some school districts are deciding to keep face coverings around for students up to sixth grade.
School districts are able to make their own rules on face masks if they choose, and Grand Haven and Holland public schools say they are listening to local health officials about the importance of masking up in the classroom. Ottawa County health officials say they appreciate that decision, as they expect the omicron variant to spread in West Michigan soon.
"Honestly, everyone needs to be wearing a face mask," Deputy Health Officer Marcia Mansaray says. "Especially right now, we've got the omicron variant spreading across the U.S. We haven't seen a lot of it in our region in West Michigan, but we expect that we will as quickly as it spreads. It's contagious, and that mask will help."
The mask mandate is expiring about two months from the time kids aged five to eleven could get vaccinated. The move is one of several changes that Mansaray is expecting in the new year.
"With the CDC's new guidelines coming out, it kind of puts a lot of things up in the air," she says.
The Health Department will follow the CDC's new guidance, which says COVID-positive patients only need to isolate for five days if they're not showing symptoms and if they mask up for five more days.
Mansaray understands why some people might be confused by this move, but says it comes as they're learning more about the omicron variant.
"People are getting infected much more quickly with that, and the incubation time, it was long time ago [that] it was 14 days," she says. "It's really quick now with omicron."
Normally, local health departments first align their policy with the state health departments, but Mansaray says they're expecting to hear formal word from the state on the CDC's new guidance soon.
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