Mask mandate can’t be reversed by Ottawa Co. board, chair says

Ottawa County

People protesting a school mask mandate at the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting on Aug. 24, 2021.

WEST OLIVE, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners cannot reverse a school mask mandate, its chair says.

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health recently issued public health orders requiring masks to be worn by students inside preschool through sixth grade schools. It is one of four health departments in the area to mandate masks for that age group.

The county board held a meeting Tuesday to discuss mask mandates. Hundreds of people showed up to the meeting, many demanding the decision be reversed.

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners listens to public comment on Aug. 24, 2021.

“I was impressed with the number of citizens who showed up yesterday to express themselves, but very disappointed by the organized effort to bully and intimidate anyone who dared to speak in favor of a mask mandate in schools,” Roger Bergman, the chair of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners said in a statement.

He said that only county health officers can make decisions about the mandate and the board cannot reverse it.

“Legally, the Board cannot fire the health officer for making this decision nor can it use its power of the purse to bully her into rescinding the decision,” Bergman said.

He said the board will be addressing things like the timing of the decision, the type of masks students will have access to and how students can obtain exemptions for legitimate medical reasons.

The mandate will remain in effect until 60 days after a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children as young as preschool or until counties are considered at low risk for virus spread by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for at least a week.

Bergman said the board hopes the order will expire during the fall semester, “and that we can return to complete normalcy by the spring semester.”

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