This week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released new guidance about layering protections for safer school operations during COVID-19. They echo recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about in-person school this fall.
As rising case levels show, this pandemic is not over. MEA continues to believe health and safety must be the top priority in local education decisions from PreK-12 through Higher Education – and that those decisions should be based on the opinions of public health experts and be made with input from employees.
While final decisions about virus mitigation measures like masks need to be made at the local board level — and bargained by our local associations — MEA believes the MDHHS & CDC recommendations for universal masking in our schools are in everyone’s best interests. Keeping students, school employees, families and communities safe must take precedence, regardless of efforts to politicize these measures.
The MDHHS guidance includes promoting vaccination against COVID-19 for eligible students and staff. Regarding vaccine mandates, again, those decisions are made at the local level and are subject to collective bargaining — a stance MEA has reinforced since the beginning of this year. As a statewide union, we represent members of varying beliefs, and we respect local control over those choices. MEA is supportive of Michigan’s efforts to encourage safe, free and effective COVID-19 vaccination for those over age 12, with our research showing that more than 85% of school employees have been vaccinated so far. We look forward to availability of the vaccine for younger ages as an additional tool to fight the virus and end this pandemic.
As always, MEA remains committed to supporting our diverse local associations, and their members, in ensuring employee’s voices are heard and heeded in local decision making.