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Gov: Masks Yes, But Distancing Won’t Be Required In Schools Next Fall

Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
Governor Gretchen Whitmer provides an update to the state's COVID-19 response in Lansing, Mich. Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said face masks will be required when K-through 12 students return to school in the fall. She said enforcing six-foot distancing could be impractical, but it is still recommended.

Those were a couple of details the governor unveiled Tuesday as she outlined plans to resume in-person classroom instruction and extra-curricular activities. 

But she said those plans rely on COVID-19 infection numbers remaining low enough so school can safely resume. 

“We have to stay vigilant. Wearing a mask today increases the odds we can resume in-person instruction in the fall. So please keep doing your part,” Whitmer said.

Paula Herbart is the president of the MEA, a union that represents teachers and other school employees. She is also part of the group that developed back-to-school plans that were unveiled.

Herbart said schools and staff will need to adjust to unexpected circumstances. 

“While today’s minimum steps provide a road map back to in-person learning, things are not ‘returning to normal.’ It will not be perfect. There will be curves in the road ahead.” 

A budget deal reached this week between Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature’s Republican leaders allocates $256 million in assistance from the federal government to help schools upgrade classrooms and other facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

The governor said she’s also asking the Michigan High School Athletic Association to flip some sports seasons.

She said close-contact sports such as football should be played in the spring. And she said sports such as golf and tennis can be moved to the fall.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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