LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Education are sending a letter to superintendents urging schools to reinforce COVID-19 preventative measures after winter break.

This letter comes just days after the state saw an explosion in new COVID-19 cases.

“Implementing prevention measures will protect students, teachers and staff, and will help maintain in-person learning,” MDHHS said in a press release.

The departments are asking schools to encourage all who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. They’re also encouraged to host vaccine clinics.

“Our priority has remained keeping students safe,” MDHHS director Elizabeth Hertel said. “Children ages 5 and older now can get vaccinated. In addition to vaccination, we strongly recommend universal masking for students, teachers and staff. We have the tools to keep Michiganders safe, and we must continue to use them.”

The CDC and MDHHS are strongly recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors age 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status.

“As Michigan remains in high community transmission, universal indoor masking is a critical prevention strategy for all school districts to allow students to maintain in-person learning. Mask use has been proven to substantially reduce transmission in school settings,” MDHHS said in a press release.

Regular testing in all school settings is also recommended. MDHHS said it is offering rapid antigen testing to K-12 schools through the MI Safe Schools Testing Program. To take advantage of this program, schools and school districts are asked to follow this process when submitting rapid antigen test orders. 

In addition, MDHHS is reminding schools that they can participate in the MI Backpack Program. The program offers free at-home COVID-19 tests to students, their families, teachers and school staff. School districts interested in participating in the program are asked to fill out this form.

“As omicron variant cases are anticipated to increase in Michigan, it is important for all schools to review their planned activities for events and gatherings,” MDHHS said in a press release.

MDHHS is advising schools to modify their planned activities during and after school where it is hard to maintain social distancing. Large gatherings (involving 100 or more people) are encouraged to be held remotely or postponed, if they are not essential.

“All prevention strategies provide some level of protection, and layered strategies implemented at the same time provide the greatest level of protection,” MDHHS said in a press release.

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