MEA calls on GOP Legislature to support mask-wearing

    Masks sewn by Jan Ruvido Stebbins | Laina G. Stebbins

    The Michigan Education Association (MEA) is now among those urging the GOP-led state Legislature to embrace stronger commitment to measures that contain the COVID-19 virus.

    That includes a commitment to mask-wearing, as cases and deaths continue to spike in Michigan.

    “Michigan lawmakers need to step up and do what’s necessary to keep our children healthy and our educators safe amid the greatest public health threat in a century,” said MEA President Paula Herbart. “Our hard-working, dedicated educators in public schools and higher education institutions across the state are putting their lives on the line daily to serve our students, families and communities, and we must do everything in our power to ensure their safety during the ongoing pandemic.”

    A recent survey showed that 90% of Michigan voters believe that masks, social distancing and other measures are important tools to fight COVID-19.

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    But Republican leadership backs a more lenient strategy. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) have repeatedly declined to require masks for legislators in the Senate and House chambers; similarly, the House GOP’s “Comeback Roadmap” plan to reopening the state was void of any mention of masks.

    “The vast majority of our members are providing in-person learning for at least some students — many pulling double duty providing virtual learning to other students at the same time,” Herbart said. “For the sake of students and educators working in person, as a society, we must do the right thing. Regardless of the orders that have been negated by the courts, we are all in this together so to anyone listening we say, mask up.”

    The union release notes that two MEA member para-educators in Montcalm County died from COVID-19 in recent weeks.

    In August, the association’s board of directors passed a resolution that included support for “face coverings, social distancing, adequate cleaning, and equitable access to technology for all staff and students.”

    Face masks are currently the most effective known way to reduce COVID-19 transmission, hospitalizations and death.

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, immigration and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).