Michigan Officials Recommend Ending Indoor Mask Mandates, Even for Schools

Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services has revised its mask guidance for public settings, recommending that most indoor masking policies can end as the state enters a "post-surge" recovery phase.

The department is lifting its public health advisory on masking in indoor settings, including for schools, according to a release from the department. The department still recommends wearing masks in "high-risk congregate settings," and when an individual is self-isolating after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID.

The department cited decreasing case and hospitalization numbers along with increased access to vaccines and other COVID treatments as reasons to conclude Michigan is in the "post-surge" phase.

"This is good news for Michigan," Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in the release. "While Michigan hasn't had statewide mask policies since last June, this updated guidance will underscore that we are getting back to normal. Let's keep working together to build on our momentum so we can keep our kids learning in person."

The state's COVID response situation will be broken into three phases going forward, the release states. The "readiness" phase indicates an anticipated surge in cases that could impact things like hospital capacity and could involve the state communicating with the public about risks.

The "response" phase indicates an area of the state is currently experiencing and responding to a surge in cases, and during that period, residents may be advised to increase frequency of mask-wearing or social distancing, the release states.

The "recovery" phase, which the health department said the state is currently in, indicates that there are not currently signs that indicate an immediate surge in cases is likely.

Michigan has seen about 1,000 to 2,000 cases per day in recent weeks, compared to a peak of over 20,000 per day in early January, according to state data.

The revision to the policy advises school districts to consult with local health departments to determine whether mask policies should be adjusted for in-person learning or other meetings and events held at schools. It also states that individuals who are at a high risk of severe illness due to COVID should consider their own situations and continue wearing masks in public spaces if they believe it's necessary.

"Individuals and families should assess their own risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission and make choices about when it makes sense to wear masks," said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. "We want to make sure individuals and local communities have the information and tools they need to make choices for their families based on their personal situation and local community conditions. We continue to strongly urge all residents ages 5 and older get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and to get boosted when eligible as the vaccine continues to be our best defense against the virus."

Newsweek has reached out to Governor Whitmer's office for further comment on the revisions to the masking policy.

Update 2/16/22, 3:00 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and context on COVID cases in Michigan in recent weeks.

Michigan COVID Mask Mandates Schools
Michigan's health department is lifting its public health advisory on wearing masks in public spaces, including schools. Above, a school uniform hangs up with a face mask on May 18, 2020, in London. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images