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MDHHS Extends Epidemic Order, Strengthens Mask Requirement for Children

(source: Alpha Media/Kayla Peake)

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) extended its Gatherings and Mask epidemic order on Friday. MDHHS said the order preserves the strongest public health order in the Midwest, and is designed to balance day-to-day activities while controlling the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. It expands mask requirements to children ages 2 to 4 to further protect the state’s residents.

The MDHHS announcement said although progress has been made, it’s crucial that Michigan residents continue wearing masks socially distancing.

The expanded mask rule for children ages 2 to 4 takes effect April 26. The MDHHS statement said it requires a good faith effort to ensure that these children wear masks while in gatherings at childcare facilities or camps.  The change addresses the increase in cases among younger children and follows recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

“Michigan continues to implement smart health policies and mitigation measures to fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “This includes the requirement to wear a mask while in public and at gatherings, limits on indoor residential social gatherings larger than 15 people with no more than three households, and expanded testing requirements for youth sports. Additionally, the most important thing people can do right now is to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their families, and help us eliminate this virus once and for all.”

As of Friday, 29.5% of Michigan residents 16 and older had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and 44% had received at least a first dose.

“More than 5.5 million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccines have been administered in Michigan, and we are well on our way to vaccinating at least 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “However, I continue to be incredibly concerned about our state’s COVID-19 data. We are still very much fighting this pandemic and seeing concerning trends in new cases and hospitalizations. Michiganders need to be using every tool in our toolbox right now to get these cases and hospitalizations down. Just because something is open and legal does not mean you should be doing it. We all must continue doing what works to slow the spread of the disease by wearing masks, washing our hands, avoiding crowds and indoor gatherings, and making plans to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.”

Also Friday, the Michigan Nurses Association released a statement, condemning efforts to reduce protections for frontline workers. Jamie Brown, RN, a critical care nurse at Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo and president of the Michigan Nurses Association, provided the following statement:

“While Michigan became the focal point of a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, Michigan business executives brought forward proposals to remove guarantees of personal protective equipment for nurses and healthcare workers, remove mask mandates in restaurants, encourage in-person work for workers who could work from home, and weaken physical distancing requirements in workplaces. These proposals are dangerously irresponsible and could cost lives. If anything, we need more protective measures, not less. Nurses are exhausted. Many hospitals are close to 100% capacity. RNs around the state are being put in the impossible situation of having to decide which patient to attend to. Nurses are working up to 18 hours at a time, often without breaks,” said Jamie Brown, president of the Michigan Nurses Association. “We are begging for everyone in the community to do their part. Stay home. Wear a mask. Get a vaccine when you are able. We are barely able to keep our heads above water. We are in crisis. We need our communities’ help.”

The order extension is through May 24.  For the latest information on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit the state website: http://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus

 

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