The Washtenaw County Health Department announced that COVID-19 health policies at K-12 schools will be lifted on Monday, Feb. 28.
The WCHD said this decision was made due to local cases declining sharply since early January and local health systems having improved capacity to deal with hospitalizations, although transmission rates still remain high.
The county’s school health orders were issued in September 2021, which required masks to be worn in all pre-K through 12 schools and directed all who were exposed to or infected with COVID-19 to quarantine or isolate. The health department continues to recommend universal masking in schools.
Masks will be required if students or staff have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or if they are returning from isolation. Masks are also required on public transportation and school buses due to federal orders.
Over 72% of Washtenaw County residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated, and 57% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated, according to WCHD.
“Local health orders have been necessary during the pandemic, and these orders have helped protect in-person learning, critical health care capacity, and overall health,” Jimena Loveluck, health officer with WCHD, said in a written statement. “We are in a different place now. We can offer more flexibility while we continue to provide appropriate guidance and work with our local schools to protect health, prevent spread, and maintain in-person learning as safely as possible.”
This decision from the WCHD comes after several other Michigan counties have announced the end of similar restrictions in K-12 schools, including Oakland and Ingham counties.
The WCHD recommends the following steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant:
Wear a well-fitting face mask in indoor public spaces. (A multilayer, surgical, KN95, or N95 mask is recommended rather than a cloth mask. A cloth mask is better than no mask.)
Seek testing if feeling ill, or if you have been exposed (if you have been exposed but don’t have symptoms, wait 5 days before testing).
Stay away from others if you are feeling ill, waiting for test results, or have tested positive (www.washtenaw.org/covid19whattodo).
Avoid crowded areas or events.
If seeing others, increase ventilation (meet outside, open windows, increase air flow), limit the number of people, encourage everyone to be up to date on vaccinations, keep at least 6 feet apart, and wear a well-fitting mask (especially if indoors).
Clean hands frequently.