Dr. Khaldun recommended a mask mandate for schools to Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS director

Posted at 1:41 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 23:12:18-04

(WXYZ) — The state's top health official has recommended that there be a mask mandate in schools, but the state has not issued such a mandate.

Speaking to the media following a COVID-19 data update, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said her job the entire pandemic has been to recommend public health interventions.

Related: COVID-19 spreading faster in Michigan with delta variant, health officials say

"I have recommended that if a mask mandate were in place and it were followed, it would likely decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools," Khaldun said.

Related: MDHHS: COVID-19 breakthrough cases account for less than 1% of fully vaccinated Michiganders

Last week, the state updated its school guidance recommending universal masking for students and staff regardless of vaccination status.

Related: State: 97.6% of COVID-19 cases between January & July were those not fully vaccinated

"I've said it before, I'm concerned about what is happened and what could happen with our schools," Khaldun said.

Related: US health officials recommend eight-month COVID-19 vaccine boosters beginning Sept. 20

She also recognized that there is a law that would allow the state's health department, to create the mandate, but neither Whitmer nor MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel has not yet made that decision. Khaldun said she couldn't say why.

In response to Khaldun's comments, the Governor's office released the following statement:

As school districts prepare for the upcoming school year, it is our hope that schools will offer in-person instruction by putting in place appropriate mitigation measures. While the vast majority of middle school and high school students are eligible for the safe and effective vaccines, we know that face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect younger students who do not have access to the vaccine yet. As Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said, these smart public health protocols are only effective if everyone works together to protect each other. That’s why school districts and local health departments should work together to put in place universal mask policies to keep students safe and ensure that in-person learning can continue this year. Right now, nearly 60 school district have made the choice to have face coverings this school year, which accounts for more than 250,000 students across the state. We know what works to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that we can all safely get back to normal.

During the press conference, the MDHHS State Epidemiologist showed a model about how kids can spread COVID-19 in the classroom.

According to the models released by the state with the University of Michigan, one child who had COVID-19 from the delta variant would infect half of the other students in just three hours in elementary schools and two hours in high schools if no masks were worn.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.