On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health And Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new epidemic order to replace the previous one which was set to expire on April 19. But Principals don't need to worry about any major changes since the new order is largely just an extension of the old one. These is one major change, but it will not likely impact most schools unless they run a child care program for very young children. Beginning April 26 masking will be required for children age 2 or older when indoors or outdoors when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance (this is identical to what is currently required for children age 4 and older).
There were no changes to athletic testing or any of the other rules under which schools must currently operate. Nor was there any move to curtail in-person instruction.
As infection rates continue to climb in Michigan, educators and parents across the state held their breath this week in anticipation of some potential action from MDHHS or Governor Whitmer. Rumors abounded that schools would be required to shift to remote instruction or put more severe gathering restrictions back in place. But no such move was forthcoming and the message from the state government has focused on the importance of complying with existing restrictions rather than imposing new ones.
During a press conference Wednesday, the Governor emphasized that Michigan already has some of the most rigorous mandatory public health safety measures among midwest states and urged Michigan residents to take responsibility for curbing infection rates by adhering to those rules, masking up, avoiding large gatherings, and getting vaccinated. Such measures, she said, are especially necessary now as many hospitals approach 100% capacity.
In response to a question about why Michigan's numbers were so high despite current restrictions, the Governor cited a combination of factors that state and national experts believe are behind Michigan's case spike. Early success managing infections means a greater number of people in Michigan have never been exposed and can still be infected; a larger number of new variants are speeding up the rate of spread; and people are responding to pandemic fatigue by letting their guard down and not complying with current safety regulations rather than continuing to rigorously mask up and maintain social distancing.
Compliance with the existing restrictions and requirements in the previous and new epidemic order, she said, are the key to bringing down Michigan's infection rates.