On Friday, May 14, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Mask Order to reflect updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) new guidance issued the previous day regarding the use of facial coverings and vaccination status. Under the updated order, Michiganders will no longer need to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status outdoors. While indoors, fully vaccinated Michiganders will no longer need to wear a mask, but residents who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear a mask or face covering to protect themselves and others. This includes unvaccinated individuals age 5 and older with a good faith effort required for 2- to 5-year-olds.
While the wearing of masks for fully vaccinated individuals has been made optional by this most recent order, the CDC recommends schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies – including indoor mask wearing – for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Districts have broad authority under MCL 380.11a to enforce provisions like masking rules if they choose to do so. Given that there is no statewide way to verify vaccination status, it may be prudent to follow the CDC’s guidance for the classroom setting. Further, staff should continue to wear masks indoors and follow the protocols established under your COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan as required by the COVID-19 Emergency Rules promulgated on October 14, 2020 and extended on April 10, 2021. The new gathering and face mask order took effect beginning May 15, 2021, at 9 a.m. and will remain in effect until July 1, 2021, unless amended or rescinded before then. According to the press release “after July 1, the broad indoor mask mandate will expire.”
We realize the difficult position this puts many of you in as you look to close out the year under ever-changing rules and guidelines. MASA will continue to keep members updated as additional information and guidance becomes available. This article should not be taken as legal advice. As always, superintendents should contact local legal counsel for legal advice.