Macomb County leads Michigan in new COVID-19 outbreaks in K-12 schools

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Macomb County is leading the state in the number of schools with new COVID-19 outbreaks, with 25 of the state's 101 new clusters reported there on Monday.

There were a total of 858 new cases at K-12 schools in Michigan in the past week, state health officials reported on Monday.

Eisenhower High School in Shelby Township has the highest number of new cases at a single school — 53 — according to state health officials, while Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights has the second highest with 45 cases. Both schools have outbreaks affecting students and staff.

Approximately 25 people attend the Macomb County Parents for Safe In-Person School rally in front of the Macomb County Health Department on Aug. 25, 2021 to ask the health department to mandate mask wearing for all Macomb County K-12 students.

Macomb County has no countywide mask mandate. Eight of the county's 21 districts have some mask rules while 13 others remain mask-optional. The Macomb County Intermediate School District has a mask rule at its buildings.

Eisenhower and Stevenson are in the Utica Community Schools district which has no mask mandate. Schools spokesperson Tim McAvoy said the district works closely with the Macomb County Health Department in the development and implementation of COVID-19 protocols used in schools.

"In areas where there may be an increased impact of COVID-19, we have worked with families in specific schools or programs to adjust mitigation strategies. These adjustments have included the temporary use of face coverings or placing classes into remote learning," McAvoy said in an email statement.

"We use data reported directly to our schools from families or through the health department of individuals who were in attendance and later tested positive or probable for COVID-19, which can often differ from those numbers reported at the state level," McAvoy said. "The dashboard on our website reflects the number of individuals who tested positive or probable after being in attendance at one of our schools."

Of the 25 schools with new outbreaks in Macomb, 15 are high schools across multiple districts.

Last week state health officials reported 83 new COVID-19 outbreaks among its K-12 schools and universities.

The group Macomb County Parents for Safe In-Person School has called for Macomb County to issue a countywide mask mandate and make outbreak data public.

The Macomb County Health Department told The Detroit News last month that it reports school-related COVID-19 information to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the information on its online dashboard.

On Monday, Emily Mellits, a member of Macomb County Parents for Safe In-Person School and a Washington Township parent, said the Macomb County Health Department has a responsibility to do everything it can to ensure children and families are safe during COVID-19.

"And the explosion of outbreaks in Macomb County schools proves that the department is failing in doing its job, despite repeated requests from parents for universal masks, a transparent county dashboard showing school cases and quarantines, and a commitment to putting science ahead of politics," Mellits said.

"The Macomb County Health Department has an opportunity to make things right, by requiring masks in all schools to slow COVID-19 outbreaks and by standing up to science-denying politicians," she said.

An official at the health department was not immediately available Monday.

No new outbreaks were reported in colleges and universities this week by the state health department.

jchambers@detroitnews.com