background_fid.png
Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Southwest Michigan Students Are Heading Back To School. Here’s Which Districts Are Requiring Masks

elementary3_masklookup_CROP.jpeg
Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News
/

 

 

Southwest Michigan students are heading back to school this week. And amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, some districts are requiring face masks. 

 

Benton Harbor Area Schools are requiring masks for all students, teachers and staff. So are St. Joseph Public Schools — the board voted unanimously last week to implement a universal mask mandate.

 

But other Berrien County districts have remained mask-optional, including Niles, Lakeshore, Brandywine, Berrien Springs, River Valley and New Buffalo.

 

According to the health department, Berrien County is currently experiencing a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and high rates of community transmission. The county was averaging 35 new cases per day on Friday.

 

During a Wednesday update, county medical director Dr. Rex Cabaltica urged parents to vaccinate children over age 12 and encouraged indoor mask use, especially in schools. He compared it to wearing a seatbelt.

 

“No one argues about wearing seat belts or putting kids in car seats because we know that it has reduced the deaths among children,” Cabaltica said. “It’s like that – it’s basically just putting on a seat belt for your kids when you send them off to school.”

 

Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel agreed, stressing that COVID-19 “is still producing death and disability across the country.”

 

“I believe the responsible thing to do – the loving thing to do – for our friends and neighbors is to do everything we can to protect our community from transmission,” Hamel said. “And for me, that includes a mask, hand hygiene and social distancing.”

 

In Indiana, South Bend, Mishawaka, Penn-Harris-Madison, Elkhart and Goshen schools have all implemented mask mandates.

 

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

 

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.

Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.