A Detroit Public Schools Community District Priest Elementary-Middle School student on Sept. 7, 2021 | Ken Coleman
Updated and corrected, 8:55 a.m., 10/16/21
School districts with no mask requirements in Michigan have higher rates of coronavirus transmissions than those with mandates, according to new data from the University of Michigan.
School districts with no mask requirements averaged 73 coronavirus cases per 100,000 students as of late September, compared to 45 cases per 100,000 students in districts with mask mandates. That’s an infection rate that is 61.% higher in school districts without mask requirements.
About 42% of school districts in Michigan have mask requirements. In all, nearly 505,000 students attend schools in districts without mask requirements, and more than 748,000 students are in schools with mask mandates.
Schools with mask mandates tend to be in more densely populated counties, including Wayne, Oakland, and Kent counties.
The highest number of COVID-19 cases among children is in the Upper Peninsula, while the Detroit region has one of the lowest rates of new cases.
As of early October, 393 K-12 schools in the state have reported COVID-19 outbreaks or clusters. Each day, an average of more than 425 students under the age of 12 become infected with COVID-19, a rate that is increasing.
The new findings provide more evidence that masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Whether the evidence will temper criticism of mask mandates remains to be seen.
Unruly anti-mask parents have shown up in droves at school board meetings across the country, claiming face coverings don’t reduce the spread of the virus. In August, a man flashed a Nazi salute and chanted “Heil Hitler” while a mask proponent spoke at a Birmingham Board of Education meeting.
Leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control, have recommended universal masking indoors as COVID-19 transmission remains a serious threat.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has encouraged school districts to require masks but stopped short of issuing a mandate.
Correction: This story originally had incorrect information in the first paragraph about COVID cases for school districts.
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