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Whitmer: In-person classes ‘very much in question’ for upcoming Michigan school year

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer raised doubts about whether schools can have in-person classes this fall as the number of coronavirus cases continues rising.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer raised doubts about whether schools can have in-person classes this fall as the number of coronavirus cases continues rising.(WJRT)
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 1:37 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan students may not return to classrooms this fall if coronavirus numbers continue rising at the rate they have, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday.

She raised doubts about whether schools can reopen to in-person classes as Michigan sees a surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases this month.

“If we’re going to get our kids back in school in eight weeks, we have at least stay in Phase 4 if not move into Phase 5. And on the trajectory we’re on, it’s very much in question,” Whitmer said.

She released the MI Safe Start plan in May, which includes six levels of restrictions. Currently, the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula are on Phase 5 while the rest of Michigan is one step lower at Phase 4.

Schools can have in-person classes under Phases 4 and above, but they could only allow remote instruction under Phases 3 and below. Classes under Phase 4 would include strict health and safety requirements, such as face coverings worn all day for students in grades six to 12.

Whitmer said the trend of higher confirmed coronavirus case counts is “concerning.” Michigan dropped to fewer than 200 new confirmed cases per day around mid-June, but that number has increased to more than 400 new cases per day for much of early July.

Wednesday brought the highest number of new cases since May with 610.

“If we want to be in a position in eight weeks from now where we can get our kids back into in-person education, this trend can’t continue and that’s why masking up is going to be so important,” Whitmer said.

She issued an urgent plea for everyone in Michigan to wear a face mask as required when they are out in public and visiting indoor establishments, such as restaurants and stores.

“We’ve got to get the politics out of this conversation and just get every Michigander to do what we know is the right thing,” Whitmer said.

All K-12 schools are required to develop plans for the upcoming school year for how to provide instruction with all in-person classes, entirely remote learning and a mix of the two. They also have to plan for how to meet health and safety requirements.

Whitmer said her administration will share as much information as possible with school leaders so they know how to proceed when classes start. School administrators should plan to be nimble and move between different phases as coronavirus conditions warrant throughout the school year.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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