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Mask order for area schools canceled | News, Sports, Jobs


(Marguerite Lanthier / Daily Photo)

KINGSFORD / IRON RIVER – Local health officials on Friday lifted the order for indoor masks for kindergarten to grade six students in a school setting, saying the 2022 state budget bill contains language that could jeopardize the funding of the ministry if the mandate remains in place.

In a press release, the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department said it was “with regret” canceling the order just five days after it went into effect Monday for all schools in both counties, even though it was still the best option to deal with a growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“The decision to issue the Mask Order was not based on a political platform; the decision was based on current local data and the guiding principles of public health ”, said Daren Deyaert, head of health at DIDHD. “The decision came after exhausting all other options while taking into account the best interests of public health. “

But DIDHD learned on Wednesday that the state budget for fiscal year 2022, Senate Bill 82, includes a provision that “Any health service that has issued an emergency order in an attempt to tackle COVID-19 will be adversely affected. Funds allocated to essential local public health services will be withheld ”, according to the press release from DIDHD.

Public health services that could be affected include vaccinations, infectious disease control, sexually transmitted disease control and prevention, hearing screening, vision services, food protection, public water supply, private groundwater supply and on-site wastewater management.

“We understand that without this funding we will lose important programs as well as many staff positions. These programs have been a staple in our community for the past 85 years ”, Deyaert said. “It was a very difficult decision to be forced to choose between what is best for the current public health situation and the future of our essential public health programs which will hopefully continue to serve our community for the better. years to come.”

The budget bill has been approved and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated she will sign it early next week, according to DIDHD.

Whitmer’s office, however, said on Friday it would declare the ban on ordering masks unenforceable.

Spokesman Bobby Leddy confirmed next week’s decision in a statement, calling for the proposed restriction “dangerous.”

“Gov. Whitmer has always said she will protect life-saving public health measures and oppose any attempt to undermine or restrict basic rescue actions throughout this pandemic, ” he said.

The DIDHD decision means local school districts will have to once again decide whether they want masks worn. Prior to DIDHD’s order on September 16, only the Norway-Vulcan School Board voted to require masks for sixth-graders and younger and the adults around them.

County commissioners could also issue a mask order on a majority vote of the Dickinson and Iron counties councils, according to DIDHD.

“Masks remain an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. There are numerous studies which indicate that consistent and correct use of the mask effectively and safely prevents the spread of COVID-19 ”, said Ruth Manier, director of community health services.

But demanding the masks has sparked protests from parents who argue that they should be the ones to decide what is best for their children. They claim face masks are uncomfortable for students and inhibit learning and social interactions in school, while providing what they say is questionable protection against the spread of the virus.

The West Iron School Board voted on Sunday to challenge the DIDHD Mask Order, even before this latest development. A group of parents and their children stood outside the DIDHD office in Kingsford on Monday with signs opposing the mask order, with some calling for Deyaert’s ouster.

In the statement, DIDHD said it “Has received overwhelming support, not only in recent weeks but since the start of the pandemic. Staff were challenged in many ways, but remained dedicated to their mission of protecting public health. “

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