MI Education Association Reaffirms Support for Protective Masks

As coronavirus case counts continue to soar in Michigan and across the nation, the President of the Michigan Education Association, Paula Herbart, has today education, medical and corporate officials from across the state in calling for a stronger commitment to steps that will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In reaffirming the union’s commitment to protecting students and educators, Herbart today called on state legislative leaders to demonstrate support for mask wearing and other safety measures known to be the only tools for controlling spread of the coronavirus.

Herbart says, “Michigan lawmakers need to step up and do what’s necessary to keep our children healthy and our educators safe amid the greatest public health threat in a century,” and adds, “Our hard-working, dedicated educators in public schools and higher education institutions across the state are putting their lives on the line daily to serve our students, families and communities, and we must do everything in our power to ensure their safety during the ongoing pandemic.”

On Tuesday, the state reported 2,367 new COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths. Another 3,881 cases were reported between Sunday and Monday. On Saturday, the state added a record 3,338 cases and 34 deaths, surpassing the single-day record of 2,030 set on October 15th.

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New infections and hospitalizations are on the rise in many parts of the state, including rural areas such as Montcalm County, where two MEA member para-educators are known to have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks.

Herbart contends, “It is now a matter of life and death for the leaders of this state to work together to promote the use of masks and physical distancing, which we know reduce exposure and save thousands of lives.”

The MEA president’s comments echoed sentiments expressed by education, medical and corporate officials from across Michigan calling on a stronger commitment to steps that will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the past week, chief medical officers and chief clinical officers at 110 of Michigan’s 137 hospitals said they won’t be lifting COVID-19 safety protocols at their facilities anytime soon and in a separate letter, 32 executives, including the CEOs of General Motors and Meijer, called on state government leaders to unify to combat the virus. Finally, some 46 school superintendents in West Michigan signed a joint letter asking residents in their communities to wear masks and social distance, or face school building closures.

Herbart concludes, “The vast majority of our members are providing in-person learning for at least some students – many pulling double duty providing virtual learning to other students at the same time. For the sake of students and educators working in person, as a society, we must do the right thing. Regardless of the orders that have been negated by the courts, we are all in this together so to anyone listening we say, mask up.”

In August, the MEA Board of Directors passed a resolution that, among other things, supported face coverings, social distancing, adequate cleaning, and equitable access to technology for all staff and students.

Just last week Herbart sent a video message to MEA members saying, in part:

“We must heed the advice of state and local health experts to mitigate the spread of this virus for the sake of our children and our families. We need to remain steadfast in doing the simple things that will protect us all: Wear a mask. Maintain social distance. Wash hands and, while we’re at it – don’t touch our faces. Keep facilities clean and sanitized. It goes without saying that we should all stay home when we’re sick.”

Recent studies have projected that universal mask wearing in public could greatly reduce the number of Americans who die by COVID-19, including from researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation who suggested that if 95-percent of the population wore face coverings and practiced social restrictions there would be approximately 130,000 fewer deaths from COVID-19 between now and February.