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Whitmer releases phase 4 back to school plan

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(courtesy photo)

By Allie Ouendag

Exactly 30 days after the 10-week stay-at-home order was lifted, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined phase 4 of Michigan’s reopening and plans for the reopening of Michigan schools.  

The reopening of the country within the past few weeks brought exponential growth of confirmed cases in states including Florida and Texas. Despite the growing unrest among the public, Whitmer reassured that Michigan is not following a similar path. 

“We are in a stronger position than many other states that are seeing a major resurgence,” Whitmer said. “But our numbers are not as strong today as they were a couple of weeks ago, so we must keep up our guard.”

Whitmer stressed the importance of remaining vigilant by practicing social distancing and continuing to utilize personal protection equipment to limit the spread of the virus. She cited the COVID-19 outbreak in the popular East Lansing bar, Harpers, that was linked to 107 confirmed cases. Whitmer explained this incident is consistent with outbreaks across the country at bars and restaurants frequented by young adults, citing a graph showing a spike in COVID-19 cases among 20-29 year olds. 

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Whitmer stressed the importance of not letting your guard down while celebrating. 

“We can still celebrate but we must be extra mindful this year because COVID-19 is still very present in the state of Michigan… It is on every single one of us to do our part to protect one another, to protect the gains we have made as a state, and to strengthen our ability to get our economy back on track.”

The governor signed Executive Order 2020-142 earlier that day that required individual school districts to develop and adopt a return to school plan based on various public health scenarios. The MI Safe Schools return to school roadmap was released as a guiding document that will be utilized to safely allow students to integrate back into in person learning environments. The 60-page document outlines protocol for PPE, good hygiene, spacing in classrooms, cleaning and disinfecting, and more. 

“Our students, parents, and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” Whitmer stated in a release. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall.”

Whitmer plans to continue working with the Return to Learn Advisory Council and experts in both epidemiology and public health to modify the roadmap as needed, however she stressed the impact of the COVID crisis on the state’s budget. She emphasized the need for federal financial support to properly implement needed procedures.