The trend with COVID-19 is starting to fall in a downward curve across the country and many states are trading in targets. Some Michigan counties, including Ingham County, are responding to the shifting trend in Omicron cases by lifting mask mandates within the following week, leaving East Lansing residents wondering whether society is prepared for change.
The Ingham County Health Department announced on Feb. 10 that emergency orders for masks in educational institutions and quarantine and isolation procedures for contact in school environments would be lifted by midnight on Feb. 19.
At this point in the pandemic, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said she saw a shift in cases and data to move forward in a different direction with the COVID-19 strategy going forward.
“Just the fact that the vaccine is available is not enough to say, ‘OK, we’re done.’ We need 5- to 11-year-olds to be vaccinated.” said Vail. “I looked at about the 40-50% vaccination rate … but we reached the 40% mark with the 5- to 11-year-olds in terms of getting vaccinated.”
Here’s the reason – originally, at the beginning of the fall semester on September 7, Vail issued the original Ingham County mask mandate, which was later updated on November 8, stating that the mandate would remain in effect until February 19. at midnight, which has held up.
“Hospital admissions, as an indicator, tend to lag behind cases, and cases may fall while hospital admissions increase,” Vail said of the renewal date for mandates on Feb. 19. “At that time, we had a drop of about 40% in admissions.”
When the order was held for review with additional issues in hand with the Michigan Public Health Code, trends in cases fell to an average of 17.8% positive test results per year. February 11 and an average of 100 cases per. 100,000 people in Ingham County, per. February 16th. Average Daily Cases is the average number of new cases per day for the last seven days to calculate fluctuations in cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, counties that are over 100 new cases per year are considered. 100,000 people, too high, which Ingham County has stuck to through the new year to early February.
“In terms of that shift in public health response, the announcement Wednesday from the state where instead of really focusing on measurements and using measurements to define (what stage) you should wear masks indoors,” Vail said. “When we set up measurements, we set up measurements based on the environment we had at the time. No vaccine, a lot of unknowns about the virus. “
Cases within the last two weeks, however, have fallen by 78%, and admissions due to COVID-19 have fallen by 34.2%, according to the Ministry of Health statement on their website. Compared to the increase initiated by omicron at the end of December 2021 right up to the beginning of February, the steady decline in cases is expected to continue to decline in the coming months.
Currently, nearly 40% of 5- to 11-year-olds and 62% of 12- to 15-year-olds in Ingham County have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is higher than the state-wide average for both age groups. Ingham County ranks third in the state for vaccinations among these age groups, which contributed to Vail’s decision to end the educational mask mandates.
Ingham County is not the only county in Michigan to follow the decline, as counties Wayne and Oakland are strategically looking at Ingham’s transmission levels in the state capital – Ingham’s actions last Thursday have already resonated across Michigan. Similar actions may well soon be taken before the end of the month in Washtenaw County, where the University of Michigan’s main campus is located.
School boards are now in the reins of choosing whether to mandate face-to-face coverage in their institutions and rely on the merits of their students and faculty. Michigan State University falls under the jurisdiction of Ingham County, but the administration’s choices are not ready to reflect those of the health departments yet.
“At this point, our mask requirements are still in place.” This is what MSU’s deputy spokesman Dan Olsen says. “We have not made any final decisions to lift this mask requirement.”
With the decision up to the schools – now more than ever, students’ sensibility combined with administration policy will define whether the curve continues to shift downwards or starts riding the wave again.
“Our indoor mask requirements were in place before many local requirements for indoor masks,” Olsen said. “We will continue to have discussions about when an appropriate time may be to lift some of these requirements.”
The MSU administration will continue to maintain masking protocols inside campus buildings and event tickets, as Vail warns areas of high positivity rates to maintain masking policies for increased risk levels.
“As a public health agency, we will continue to support local school districts by recommending evidence-based public health measures, educating on current guidance and practices, and making recommendations to stay safe and healthy,” Vail said in a press release.
While Ingham County believes East Lansing is ready to remove the mask, many residents are wondering if the community is ready. Should students be responsible for their own health and the safety of others?
To Ph.D. students of computer science Michael Langford, the independent factor in the return of this mandate will be those who, regardless of the mandate, do not mask, and students who have been faithful to the rules will know when to mask themselves.
“I’m not opposed to that,” Langford said. “No matter what I think – unless there’s a worse thread coming out and there’s a more visible problem, people will not immediately become more willing to participate in regulation.”
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For the safety of all students, parents who know when to have their child stay home will be more important than ever as the guidelines are loosened and East Lansing begins to recover. Students should not attend classes if they feel sick or ill, and should take a PCR or rapid antigen test to see if they test positive for COVID-19. Quick COVID-19 tests can be ordered at home and is sent online for free at COVIDtests.gov.
“I think we can only expect people to become less tolerable as time goes on, so people do not instantly become more responsible without masking,” Langford said. “Especially if they were not willing to mask before, why should they mask themselves now?”
That Together we will page instructs that face masks should be worn by everyone – including all faculty, staff, students, alumni, salespeople, and visitors – while indoors at all times, following guidance from the CDC’s recommendations on masking in crowded public areas.
Vail urges all citizens of East Lansing to wear N-95 masks as they protect better than fabric masks and keep water molecules inside, blocking airway droplets.
If the trend of cases continues to decline throughout the spring semester, other mandates in the COVID-19 era could end if sensible masking can be carried out properly throughout Ingham County.
“Hopefully things don’t get worse,” Langford said.
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