Parents rally for hospital workers, urge statewide school mask mandate 

By: - October 4, 2021 2:01 pm

Rally to support health care workers and a statewide school mask order in Royal Oak, Oct. 4, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Michigan parents in three cities rallied on Monday outside hospitals to show support for health care workers and called for universal masking in all schools to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Macomb County Commissioner Mai Xiong participated in the Royal Oak rally with her daughter. 

“We wanted to come out and support our health care workers for all the work they’ve been doing to keep up safe during this pandemic and more importantly keeping our children safe,” said Xiong, a mother of four kids, three of whom are school age. 

The action coincided with National Child Health Day as Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools, a  statewide coalition of parents groups showed their thanks amid escalating concerns of burnout among doctors and nurses that affect hospitals from Grand Rapids, Royal Oak and Howell.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has supported school districts that have issued mask requirements. However, she has stopped short of issuing a statewide mask mandate. Local school and health officials have faced a growing number of threats from people who oppose masks in schools. 

“We wanted to come out and support our health care workers for all the work they’ve been doing to keep up safe during this pandemic and more importantly keeping our children safe,” said Macomb County Commissioner Mai Xiong, a mother of four, three of whom are school age. | Ken Coleman

Now a growing number of county health departments are rescinding school mask orders due to language Republicans inserted in the new state budget threatening their funding. Although Whitmer has said the language is unconstitutional, health officials in counties including Allegan, Berrien and Dickinson have ended their mask mandates anyway, as the Advance previously reported.

Marie Griffioen, a Kent County parent and member of Smart Science Alliance of Kent County, a grassroots parents group with hundreds of members that supports masks in all Kent County schools, said that healthcare workers have made “courageous sacrifices to save countless lives.” 

“The overwhelming of ICUs and hospital beds lies at the feet of those who refuse to fight the virus by getting a vaccine or wearing a mask,” said Griffioen. ”All Americans, especially anti-maskers, must now do our part to fight COVID-19 and provide relief to the health professionals who have kept us safe, by practicing science-based safety measures such as wearing masks in schools and getting vaccinations.”

Kathleen Lucas, an Ottawa County parent and member of Smart Science of Ottawa County, a grassroots parents group, also supported Monday’s effort. 

Rally to support health care workers and a statewide school mask order in Royal Oak, Oct. 4, 2021 | Ken Coleman

“Now that we know how to slow the spread of COVID-19 and give our health care heroes a break from so much death and suffering, all Americans must keep our promise and do our duty by masking up in schools and getting vaccinated. We want every doctor, nurse and health professional in our community and across Michigan to know that the overwhelming majority of parents support masks in schools, support vaccinations and will fight to make sure we can bring down cases using science-based safety measures. Real patriots wear masks, get vaccinated and protect their fellow Americans.”

The alliance is calling on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to issue a public health order requiring masks be worn in all schools statewide. 

Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  released new studies showing that COVID-19 outbreaks and cases were far more likely to happen in schools without mask requirements. For these reasons, the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association strongly recommend universal masking in schools.  

“Like a growing number of doctors and nurses across Michigan, parents who are doing the right thing are frustrated that a loud minority continues to cling to baseless conspiracy theories, reject science and refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated,” said Emily Mellits, a Macomb County parent and member of Macomb County Parents for Safe In-Person Schools. 

“Families who simply want our schools to be safe are angry at the reckless individuals who threaten school board members and public health experts who call for mask mandates that can save lives. When an extremist fringe and science-denying politicians attack health professionals and school board members who support safety measures, they are not only disrespecting doctors and nurses who are saving lives, they are also waving the white flag of surrender to COVID-19.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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