Whitmer defends local school boards, health officials
LINCOLN — Earlier this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put the onus on local health and school officials to issue mask mandates and set COVID-19 policy, when previously that was done in Lansing.
The mask mandates in some school districts in Northeast Michigan have sparked backlash toward school board members, with some parents going as far as threatening to remove their children from school if they are forced to wear a mask.
On Wednesday, Whitmer, who was visiting the Alcona Health Center clinic in Lincoln, addressed the issue with strong words.
“Unequivocally, it is unacceptable for anyone to threaten our school board members, an educator, a public health officer, or a clerk,” Whitmer said. “We have seen this rise and it’s unacceptable and none of us should have to put up with that and none of us should permit it without taking it on.”
Parents raising concern about mask mandates on kids claim it impacts them socially and makes it difficult for them to breathe.
The Center of Disease Control says masks are safe and reduces the transmission of COVID-19.
Mask manades in Michigan schools have been implemented at either the recommendation of local health officials or the health departments issuing the orders themselves.
When asked if Lansing could intervene and issue orders to take the heat off of local schools and health officials, Whitmer was noncommittal.
She said more is known about the virus, how masks help limit its spread, and a vaccine is available. Because there are more ways to fight against the virus, handing over power to the local health departments was the best direction to go, she said.
“In the early days we didn’t know masks were a tool we could use to keep ourselves safe and we certainly didn’t have a vaccine,” she said. “Now we have those tools we didn’t have, so that is why we have pushed the decisions down to the local level because that is ultimately where policies are going to be developed and enforced. That is why it is important to empower and respect our school boards and county health officials.
Whitmer said she knows people are suffering from COVID fatigue, and admitted she has it too. Still, she said, continuing to wear masks and getting vaccinated is the shortest path to limiting its impact on society.
“Every single one of us is tired of dealing with COVID-19. I am too,” Whitmer said. “But it is not gone. We’re going to have to learn to live with COVID-19 and the best way to do it and keep our kids in school and re-engage our economy is by making up and getting vaccinated.”
Whitmer toured the clinic and met with some administrators, before posing for a few photos and moving on to her next stop in northern Michigan.