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Michigan dropping broad mask requirement for state workers

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan revealed Monday that it's dropping a broad requirement that masks be worn inside state facilities, another in a bevy of moves to ease COVID-19 policies nearly two years into the pandemic.

State employees in standard office and outdoor settings are generally no longer required to wear masks while working effective Thursday, wrote Liza Estlund Olson, director of the Office of the State Employer, in an email.

A sign tells visitors to wear masks as they enter the George W. Romney Building, where the Michigan governor's office is located on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.

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Masking might still be required in high-risk congregate settings, such as long-term care, health care and correctional facilities or in response to an accommodation request, Estlund Olson added.

"As recovery from the latest COVID-19 surge continues, public health officials have updated guidance," she wrote. "Based on this latest guidance, masking protocols for state employees are being updated."

The letter was first reported by the radio show "WILS Morning Wake Up with Dave Akerly."

Masks have been required in state of Michigan facilities regardless of vaccination status, said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. There are nearly 50,000 state workers.

On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance that altered its recommendations for where masks should be worn.

Under the new metrics, which take into account hospital data, about 90% of Michigan residents live in counties where healthy people aren't specifically encouraged to wear masks, according to the CDC.

On Feb. 16, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services updated its own mask guidance to drop public health advisories regarding mask usage in most indoor public settings and K-12 schools as the state entered what officials described as a "post-surge recovery phase." 

Michigan experienced surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in December and January. However, those spikes have relented in recent weeks.

Also, in February, county health departments in Michigan have moved to end their mask requirements for K-12 students, citing decreasing COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations.