With the Labor Day holiday passed, K-12 schools across Michigan are now in full swing. The return to in-person learning comes amid an uptick in reported COVID-19 cases statewide.
In an effort to combat the virus’ spread, several districts have implemented rules mandating that all children wear face coverings. Officials in some counties, including Oakland, Washtenaw and Genesee, have issued sweeping orders for all districts.
“I don’t know what it is about this particular issue that has made people so animated.” — Dave Coulter, Oakland County Executive
The signing of a mask mandate in Oakland County triggered a large protest at the county health department’s building in Pontiac. At one point hundreds of demonstrators were in attendance.
What Anti-Maskers Say
Local parent Amanda Williams says she believes the implementation of a mask mandate is politically motivated. She says she’s considering homeschooling her child.
“These mandates need to go away,” says Williams. “It’s not healthy for our children. It’s not fair to them.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does publish the most up-to-date COVID-19 numbers online. However, some who oppose the mask mandate, like 63-year-old Shelley Slater, say they do not trust the source.
“If you’re afraid,” says Slater, “if you’re fearful and you think you’re going to die, stay home. But don’t interfere with my freedoms.”
Slater says she has not worn a face mask at any point during the pandemic.
What County Officials Say
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter signed the school mask mandate into effect. He says mandates like wearing a face covering are no different than any other public health rule.
“You can’t go into a party store without a shirt or shoes on,” says Coulter. “You have to wear a helmet if your kids are going to play football; there’s a reason for that.”
With vaccines not yet approved for children under 12, Coulter says he feels requiring face coverings is in the best interest of the kids. He says county health officials were consulted before the decision was made.
“I don’t know what it is about this particular issue,” says Coulter, “that has made people so animated and passionate. But we look at this as simply a way to help protect the health and wellness of people of Oakland County.”
Listen: Anti-mask protesters and County Executive Dave Coulter weigh in on the mandate.