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Michigan Healthcare

Leelanau County Board asks district health department to rescind school mask mandate

Leelanau BOC

Thursday night, Leelanau County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting during which the board voted 4 to 3 to ask the health officer to rescind the school mask mandate.

It follows the decision from the Board of Health for Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties which also chose to counteract its health department’s mask mandate.

While both votes passed, the votes were merely symbolic, as it is only the health officer who can revoke the order.

Leelanau County board members who called for the special meeting said they wanted to hear from constituents who shared concerns about the well-being of students and potential health effects of wearing masks.

Commissioner Debra Rushton said she hoped their vote would cause Lisa Peacock, the health officer for the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, to reconsider her order.

“Maybe this will give her an opportunity to review her decision making process and have a little more open conversation about the citizens who were concerned about their children,” she said.

There was about two hours of public comment, mainly from those who opposed the mask mandate. They spoke about the concerns they had for their children and grandchildren who they fear are dealing with mental and physical health impacts from wearing the masks all day.

But 57 letters sent to the board all supported the health department’s decision, including several letters from area medical professionals and a Munson Healthcare official.

Peacock could not be at the meeting due to a prior commitment, but she sent answers to some of the questions she had received prior.

In an interview last week, she told IPR News she issued the order to protect the students at the large number of schools who initially did not adopt policies based on CDC recommendations.

“Our transmission levels in the county, in the region, in the state are all high right now,” Peacock said. “Masking just some kids really is not effective at all in preventing the spread in schools.”

The order notes it will stay in effect until risk trends improve, including transmission levels, vaccine coverage, hospital capacity.