MDHHS updates guidance for schools returning to in-person learning


Patrick Jones


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued updated COVID-19 guidelines for schools to reduce disruptions to in-person learning and prevent infection in schools, especially among students under 12-years-old who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccination. The updated guidance follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for returning to school safely. 


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MDHHS recommends schools adopt policies to promote vaccination for those eligible, require universal masking for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status or community transmission rate, and implement multi-layered protection measures to protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. 

Dr. Janeigh Khaldun says:

“We are committed to ensuring Michigan students and educators are safe in the classroom, including those who may not yet be vaccinated. MDHHS is issuing this guidance to help protect Michiganders of all ages. We continue to urge all eligible residents to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible as it is our best defense against the virus and the way we are going to end this pandemic.”

MDHHS outlines nine different strategies to keep schools safe including contact tracing, cleaning and disinfecting, handwashing, and staying home when sick. 

Another strategy includes promoting vaccination to those who are eligible. MDHHS says promoting vaccination can “help schools more safely maintain in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.”

MDHHS also strongly recommends requiring consistent and correct mask wearing for all, no matter one’s vaccination status. They say masking is crucial to maintaining in-person learning. Local health departments should work with school districts on imposing universal mask mandates. 

Screening testing for students and staff prevents those without symptoms from coming into schools and infecting others, says MDHHS. They are offering rapid antigen tests to schools through the MI Safe Schools Testing Program

The MI Safe Schools Testing Program is a voluntary program that provides rapid antigen tests, training, and guidance for the staff of schools who sign up. MDHHS recommends weekly testing of staff and student-facing educators.

MDHHS also recommends adequate ventilation in all spaces where it is possible. This includes opening windows, using child-safe fans to increase air flow effectiveness, and air filtration systems. 

Physical distancing is recommended regardless of vaccination status. MDHHS says students should remain at least 3 feet away from one another in conjunction with wearing masks. However, 6 feet is recommended between students and adult educators and between adult educators and staff. 

In-person learning should not be jeopardized, however, if this recommendation is impossible to fulfill, like in a narrow hallway. Additional layered precautionary measures should be implemented in these spaces such as masks, screening testing, and ventilation. 

MDHHS says decisions should be determined depending on the transmissibility of the surrounding community and partner with local health departments to make decisions on layering strategies.