Berrien County Health Department issues order requiring face masks in schools
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- The Berrien County Health Department issued a public health order requiring the use of face masks in K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status.
The order begins Monday and will be in effect until community transmission is low or moderate for 21 consecutive days and there has been no increase in hospitalizations and deaths during that same time period.
The order requires:
- All educational institutions or settings in Berrien County to ensure all students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 properly and consistently wear a face mask while inside any closed building or structure regardless of vaccination status. This includes preschools, primary, secondary and vocational schools, youth camps and programs, childcare and tutoring centers, colleges, universities and other organized activities outside of the home where coursework is taught.
- All educational institutions or settings to ensure individuals who provide service to students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 properly and consistently wear a face mask while inside any building or structure regardless of vaccination status.
“Our top priority is keeping students in school for in-person learning. With the rapid increases in COVID-19 transmission over the past month, it is imperative that we take this action to keep students and teachers healthy and safe in the classroom,” said Courtney Davis, acting health officer for the Berrien County Health Department. “While we are still learning about the potential impacts of the highly-contagious Delta variant that is present in Berrien County, what we do know is that masking is one of the best defenses against COVID-19 transmission.”
Berrien County’s seven-day cumulative case rate is 167.5 per 100,000 persons, which represents an average of 37 new cases per day for the period of August 24 through August 30. The county’s seven-day average test positivity rate has climbed to 12.7 percent.
“With less than 35% of adolescents ages 12-19 fully vaccinated and those younger than 12 without the opportunity to receive the vaccine, further action is needed to protect the health of all individuals in our school systems,” said Dr. Rex Cabaltica, medical director for the Berrien County Health Department.
The health department’s public health order does not apply to the following individuals:
- Those actively eating or drinking.
- Persons participating in activities outdoors.
- Children under the age of four (4) years, although supervised masking is recommended for those age two (2) and older.
- Neurodivergent students of any age attending school, although supervised masking is encouraged.
- Teachers who are working with children who are hard of hearing or neurodivergent students and where masking would inhibit instruction. These teachers or staff should be fully vaccinated persons or comply with masking directive.
- Persons who have a current medical reason confirmed in writing from a board-certified Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) currently licensed to practice medicine.