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Whitmer orders masks for most children in child care centers, camps


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference Wednesday morning.

State of Michigan

Most of the children enrolled in child care centers and camps in Michigan will now be required to wear a mask part of the time, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.

The new rule comes a day after Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said the state has seen COVID-19 outbreaks at child care centers and camps. It also comes a day after news reports about an outbreak at a camp in Gladwin in central Michigan.

Those outbreaks, a press release said, are “adding to the mounting evidence that children can contract and spread the virus.”

Here’s what the governor’s order requires:

  • All staff and children ages 2 and up must wear a mask on a school bus or other transportation.
  • All staff and children ages 4 and up must wear a mask in all indoor common spaces.
  • All staff and children 12 and older must wear a mask when in classrooms, homes, cabins or similar indoor small-group settings.

The new rules don’t apply to children under the age of 2, children who can’t medically tolerate a mask, during meal time, while swimming, during high-intensity activities, or outside while physically distanced.

The rules also don’t apply to child care centers located in regions of the state that are seeing significant improvement in COVID-19 data, as measured by declines in the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Child-care workers have been on the front lines of this crisis and have worked tirelessly to provide a safe place for our children and families during this time,” Whitmer said in a statement. “COVID-19 is still a very real threat to Michiganders of all ages, and we must continue to stay vigilant and use every tool at our disposal to protect ourselves and each other.”

Child care centers are an important part of the state’s efforts to recover from the pandemic. Chalkbeat reported last month that nearly 1,000 providers in southeast Michigan have already reopened, about one-third of the total in the state. If child care centers can’t reopen successfully, parents won’t have a place to send their children when they return to work and the economic recovery will be jeopardized.

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