Michigan health officials announce new outbreaks at K-12 schools

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Michigan health officials reported 98 new COVID-19 outbreaks at K-12 schools across the state on Monday, with the majority of new cases at elementary and high schools.

The largest new outbreak was Lakeview High School in Battle Creek in Calhoun County where 31 cases impacting students and staff were reported. 

In Delta County, James T. Jones Elementary in Escanaba reported 14 cases involving students only. In Lenawee County, Morenci Middle School in Morenci has 11 cases affecting students and staff.

This photo provided by Nisha Gandhi shows Maya Huber taking part in Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine study at Rutgers University on June 14 2021 in New Brunswick, N.J. Maya does not know if she is receiving the vaccine or the placebo.

In all, there were 40 new cases at elementary schools, 22 cases at middle schools and 35 cases at high schools.

Lenawee County had the largest number of schools reporting outbreaks at nine while Macomb County had seven.

There were no new outbreaks at universities. However, in its weekly report, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported ongoing outbreaks at nine colleges including Alma College (2 cases); Central Michigan University (8); Adrian College (12); Northern Michigan University (6); Grand Valley State University (6) and Saginaw Valley State University (4).

The largest ongoing outbreak in higher education is at the University of Michigan, with 446 cases involving students and staff. Northwood University in Midland and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti followed, with 36 cases involving students and 22 cases involving students and staff, respectively.

Michigan State University is aware of 242 cases of COVID-19 among students and 64 cases among faculty and staff since the week of Aug. 2, according to its website, although that data was not reported by the state health department. The college said 70 of those cases were detected the week of Sept. 13.

Last week, the state reported 74 new outbreaks at K-12 schools and universities. There are currently ongoing outbreaks at 120 K-12 schools, the state said.

The largest ongoing outbreak was at St. Charles High School, located in Saginaw County, with 42 cases among students. Other large ongoing outbreaks were occurring at Pinconning High School in Bay County with 31 cases among students, and Adams Elementary in Midland County, with 31 cases among students and staff.  

About 60% of Michigan students — or nearly 758,000 — are covered by mask rules in Michigan, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office.

Health departments in 12 Michigan counties have instituted mask mandates: Kalamazoo, Allegan, Genesee, Kent, Ottawa, Oakland, Wayne, Benzie-Leelanau, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, Ingham and Washtenaw and Berrien.

On Monday, Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for the age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The group Macomb County Parents for Safe In-Person Schools called on the Macomb County Health Department to implement a county-wide mask mandate in all schools after the seven outbreaks were reported.

So far, the county has declined to issue a mandate.

Emily Mellits, a Washington Township parent who is part of the group, said the outbreaks are exactly why Macomb County families and children need a mask mandate in schools.

"Why should Macomb County parents be forced to leave work and lose wages because anti-mask politicians refuse to do the right thing and defend our children from COVID-19?" Mellits said.

"Too many Macomb County families are being forced to live the chaos of these outbreaks and scramble to find daycare when kids quarantine. We know we can avoid infections and outbreaks if only everyone followed science- and evidence-based safety behaviors such as wearing a mask."

Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed.