Most children and staff at child-care centers and camps will have to wear masks at most times, under an executive order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday.

“Child-care workers have been on the front lines of this crisis and have worked tirelessly to provide a safe place for our children and families during this time,” Whitmer said in a news release.

“COVID-19 is still a very real threat to Michiganders of all ages, and we must continue to stay vigilant and use every tool at our disposal to protect ourselves and each other.”

The order takes effect Monday and applies to child-care organizations along with “day, residential, travel and troop camps for children.” Previous mandates exempted some children and camps from the already broader mask requirements in place since July.

The announcement comes as health officials are still learning about an outbreak at a youth center in Gladwin, already connected to 53 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Masks already have been required for most people while inside in a public space or outside in a crowded public space. However, an order issued in July stated “neither child care centers nor day, residential, travel, or troop camps” were considered public spaces.

The the new order requires masks to be worn by:

All staff and all children ages 2 and up when on a school bus or other transportation provided by the child care organization or camp. All staff and all children ages 4 and up when in indoor hallways and common areas. Face coverings should be encouraged for children ages 2 and up. All staff and all children ages 12 and up when in classrooms, homes, cabins, or similar indoor settings. Face coverings should be encouraged for children ages 2 and up. All visitors to the child-care organization or camp.

There are still exemptions to this order. Those exemptions include:

For children under the age of 2. For any child who cannot medically tolerate a face covering, has trouble breathing, or is unable to remove the face covering without assistance. While eating, sleeping, swimming, or performing high-intensity activities (not including singing or cheering). When a child or staff member is outdoors and able to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household.

Masks are also not required but encouraged for camps or centers in regions of the state already in later stages of the state’s reopening plan, according to the news release.

There are 53 confirmed coronavirus cases and another 13 probable cases connected with the Springs Ministries summer camp in Gladwin, Steve Hall, health officer for the Central Michigan District Health Department, recently told the Free Press. Of the 66 cases in all, 27 are campers and 27 are staff or camp counselors.

Dave Boucher

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