We’re entering a new phase of the pandemic. But what does that mean?


Students Wear Masks at Oakman Elementary School in Dearborn (Photo Courtesy of Dearborn Public Schools)

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

Wayne County, Mich. – After Wayne County’s Health Department removed the mask requirement for schools, local school districts have been updating their mask policies for students, staff and visitors to school buildings.

For Dearborn Public Schools, that means students and staff will no longer be required to wear masks when they return from Mid-Winter Break this Wednesday. The decision comes as Wayne County is experiencing a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases, with Wayne County averaging only around 30 new cases each day last week.

“We understand that any decision regarding COVID will come with mixed opinions,” said Dr. Glenn Maleyko, Superintendent of Dearborn Schools. “We hope everyone will be patient and understanding with each other and with our staff as we adjust to this new change.”

However, masks will still be required for those who have been exposed over the previous 10 days for Dearborn staff and students. The Dearborn School District will be continuing other forms of COVID-19 risk mitigation as well.

“While no longer requiring masks, the district will continue to provide masks for those who want them, to use other mitigation measures such as increased ventilation, to assist with providing COVID testing, to promote vaccination including hosting clinics, and of course, to encourage proper hand washing and other personal hygiene practices,” reads a press release from Dearborn Public Schools.

Hamtramck also has updated their masking policy – no longer requiring students, staff or visitors to wear masks anywhere except school buses.

“Hamtramck Public Schools will no longer mandate but will continue to highly recommend staff, students and visitors wear masks on all school campuses, regardless of vaccination status,” reads a press release.

The release also states that Hamtramck Schools believes masks are the most important way of limiting the spread in a dense community like Hamtramck.

“The safety of our students, staff and families comes first, and we firmly believe masks are an important part of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and a critical component of keeping our students in our buildings for in-person learning.

Detroit has opted to continue its mask policy, despite the county’s rescission of the mask order from Aug. 2021.

“All things will always be unique,” said Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District. “And they need to be unique and different in the Detroit Context, mainly because of low vaccination and still high transmission rates. We’re looking forward to the day where it’ll be optional to wear the mask for adults and students.”

The new mask policies for Wayne County schools come after a state-wide update, redesignating the state’s phase in the COVID-19 pandemic cycle as a post-surge recovery phase.

“This is good news for Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “While Michigan hasn’t had statewide mask policies since last June, this updated guidance will underscore that we are getting back to normal. Let’s keep working together to build on our momentum so we can keep our kids learning in-person.”

The COVID-19 cycle is a way to designate the severity of COVID-19 spread in Michigan. The three phases of the COVID-19 cycle are: at a peak in spread, or Response, at the point in low case loads after a surge, or Recovery, and at a point when cases are rising, or Readiness.

“For the past several monthsm we have been in a response phase as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive. “With the continued decline in cases and hospitalizations, we are now entering a post-surge recovery phase.”

Dr. Bagdasarian also emphasized that the phase of recovery can change, with the state changing policy along with it.

“As we move through the phases of our COVID-19 response, our recommendations will be updated to reflect the current status of transmission, but we continue to prioritize public health and promote health and wellness for all families and communities.”

Head of MDHHS Elizabeth Hertel wants people to know that the personal situation can vary from individuals.

“Individuals and families should assess their own risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission and make choices about when it makes sense to wear a mask,” Hertel said.

While the hope may be that this new phase of the COVID-19 cycle could mean that the pandemic is finally easing, school districts want community members to know that these changes in policy may change with the severity of Michigan’s COVID-19 response.

“Recommendations regarding masking may change as conditions evolve,” Superintendent Maleyko said.