LANSING, Mich. – The Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) has published its updated version of their 2021-2022 School Year COVID-19 Guidance. In accordance with the recommendations issued by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ICHD strongly recommends that local K-12 schools follow the current CDC and MDHHS guidance for starting the 2021-2022 school year.
Updated MDHHS guidance released on August 13, 2021 recommends that all schools require universal masking for students and staff in all school facilities, regardless of vaccination status. In addition the MDHHS guidance recommends that schools adopt policies to:
· Promote vaccination for eligible students, staff, and families.
· Implement layered prevention measures.
“Schools that do not require universal masking will be more likely to have kids excluded from school due to COVID-19 or exposure,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “This will have a significant impact on face-to-face learning for students and their parents who may need to take time off of work to stay home with their children.”
In-school learning is critical to the social and emotional development of children. As many school-aged children remain unvaccinated, children are at increased risk for COVID-19 infection especially due to the highly contagious Delta variant. However, multiple studies have shown that COVID-19 transmission rates within school settings, are lower than or similar to community transmission levels when multiple prevention measures are in place.
ICHD recommends a layered prevention strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and allow kids to remain present in the classroom settings. This layered strategy should include the following measures:
· Encourage the COVID-19 vaccine to those who are eligible
· Require universal masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status
· Maintain physical distance of at least 3 feet when masking, or 6 feet when not masking or between unvaccinated staff and students
· Screening testing at least weekly in staff, and in students when in areas of moderate to high COVID-19 transmission
· Encourage proper handwashing and respiratory etiquette
· Regular cleaning and disinfection
· Stay home when sick and get tested for COVID-19
· Adhere to isolation if you test positive for COVID-19 or quarantine if considered a close contact
“We will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccination opportunities throughout Ingham County for students, school staff, and family,” Vail stated.
All individuals aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To find vaccination locations near you, visit www.vaccines.gov or schedule an appointment through one of our Ingham County Community Health Centers.