Ferndale schools reinstates face masks for students, staff because of uptick in COVID-19
An Oakland County school district is reinstating face masks for students and staff and the city of Detroit Health Department is partnering with the state to expand services to treat residents with COVID-19 by having a site that will offer testing, on-site evaluation and prescription of oral medication for the virus.
Ferndale Public Schools mandated masks indoors for students and staff starting Monday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise and metro Detroit counties, including Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, are in the high community level for the virus.
The announcement about the mask mandate resuming appeared on the district's website in an effort "to keep our students and staff healthy and our schools open."
The mandate will stay in place at least while Oakland County is in a high community level and the percent positivity is as high as it is, Bill Good, district spokesperson, told the Free Press.
"I know we all hoped we could avoid returning to masking in our buildings. However, at this time we believe it is best to follow the guidance of our local, state and federal health agencies," Good said in the announcement.
Ferndale schools serve Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, parts of Oak Park and Royal Oak Township.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people in 16 Michigan counties wear masks in indoor, public places as the virus is surging and more people are being hospitalized.
More: 16 Michigan counties now at high level of COVID-19 transmission. CDC says wear a mask.
It updated its map detailing community risk from COVID-19 with the 16 Michigan counties, including those in metro Detroit, in high risk and 28 Michigan counties in medium risk.
The counties in high risk are Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, St. Clair, Antrim, Benzie, Calhoun, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Mackinac and Manistee.
The Michigan counties in medium risk are Gogebic, Ontonagon, Marquette, Presque Isle, Alpena, Montmorency, Otsego, Alcona, Crawford, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Kent, Barry, Kalamazoo, Eaton, Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, Ingham, Shiawassee, Saginaw, Midland, Bay, Genesee, Sanilac, Monroe, Lenawee and Jackson.
In those counties, people should talk with their health care provider about whether to wear a mask or take other precautions if they are at high risk for severe illness with COVID-19.
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Public health officials in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties and the city of Detroit told the Free Press on Friday that they weren't going to mandate masks at this time.
"Based on our guidance, we expect some entities, especially our higher-risk or group settings, to require it again while we’re at a high community level. This would include schools, public agencies, shelters, etc., if they’re not currently requiring universal masking indoors," said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, spokesperson for the Washtenaw County Health Department.
More: Ford, Stellantis, GM to require face masks at SE Michigan plants as COVID-19 cases rise
On Monday, the Detroit Health Department said it will be the only health department in Michigan to offer rapid COVID-19 testing, on-site evaluation and prescription of antiviral medication, if appropriate. The services are free.
“Providing the Test to Treat program is directly in line with our goal of ensuring that Detroiters have easy access to all of the lifesaving COVID-19 tools available to keep them safe and protected from severe illness or hospitalization,” said Denise Fair Razo, the city's chief public health officer.
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Dr. Robert Dunne, the city's acting medical director, said: “Understanding available treatment options to manage COVID-19 if you test positive is important in preventing symptoms from getting worse. This is one more tool in helping us reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths by quickly getting people the treatment they need.”
The Test to Treat program is available at the Joseph Walker Williams Center, 8431 Rosa Parks Blvd., from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment, call 313-230-0505.
Ford, General Motors and Stellantis also recently announced that they are requiring face masks at facilities in southeast Michigan because of the uptick in COVID-19 cases.
More: COVID-19 cases in Michigan expected to climb through May: What it means
The virus is spreading because of the omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1.
"I know people are tired of this," said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, director of infection prevention for Henry Ford Health.
But he said wearing a mask is one of the most important things everyone can do help protect themselves and others.
Cunningham said close to 100 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at Henry Ford Health, and he anticipates the number of case and hospitalizations to go up over the next few weeks. Most of the COVID-19 patients are over 65 years old and are not vaccinated or are vaccinated but have medication conditions, he said.
Cunningham said health care staff is able to handle the number of COVID-19 patients and patients with other medical conditions they currently are treating, but "that is why it's so important for this masking, especially for people with chronic medical issues."
The Michigan health department reported 999 adults and children were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus Monday — more than double the number hospitalized a month ago, when 429 people with the virus were getting hospital care.
The pandemic peak in January saw more than 4,600 people hospitalized with the virus.
Michigan reached a seven-day average of 3,958 new daily cases on Wednesday — the highest point since February, when it was coming down from the initial omicron surge.
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Staff writers Kristen Jordan Shamus and Eric D. Lawrence contributed to this report.
Contact Christina Hall: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ferndale schools: Face masks for students, staff in COVID-19 uptick