Mask mandate issued for schools in Barry County

Coronavirus

CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WLNS/WOOD) — The Barry-Eaton District Health Department has issued a mask mandate for all educational settings.

“Scientific studies overwhelmingly demonstrate the effectiveness of face coverings to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” the agency said in a Friday release.

In issuing the order, Barry-Eaton District Health Office College Scrimger cited a 219% increase in new cases among those 17 from the two-week period of Aug. 1 to Aug. 14 to the two-week period of Aug. 29 to Sept. 11.

Ben Geiger, chair of the Barry-Eaton District Board of Health (the governing body of BEDHD), released a statement saying the board cannot and will not attempt to throw out Scrimger’s order.

We live in contentious times, and there’s few things more contentious today than a mask mandate for our schools. Our Health Officer Colette Scrimger and I had spirited discussions about the necessity for a mask mandate. Despite my views, I always reiterated this is a difficult decision, and was hers and hers alone to make.

Ms. Scrimger has made her decision, and state law does not allow it to be overturned by local county commissioners. Accordingly, the Board of Health respects her decision and refuses to engage in divisive political theater that changes no minds and overturns no orders. For the sake of our children, our families and our public health staff, let’s move forward with respect, empathy and civility.

Barry-Eaton District Board of Health Chair Ben Geiger

The mask order is among two new emergency public health orders. The other details quarantine isolation procedures for schools. Students who get exposed to COVID-19 must follow the guidelines recently laid out by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Both of the orders will go into effect at midnight Wednesday and will be in effect indefinitely.

Barry and Eaton counties join a number of Michigan counties that have issued similar orders, including Allegan, Kalamazoo, Kent and Ottawa. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated she is inclined to rely on requirements rather than a statewide mandate in the hope that more people will comply.

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