The masks come off and the smiles come out

Up top Mrs. Weckle’s 1st grade class was happy to see the photograper. For the picture they took a break from their assignment of reading with partners.

By Don Rush
Back in February the Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) announced it would lift the mandate requiring individuals wear masks in schools and daycares, effective February 28. That being the case, masks are now optional in all Oxford Community Schools buildings.
According to a release from the district, “Students and staff must still wear masks on our school buses, however, through March 18.”
Stating further, “Please note, we strongly recommend that anyone who has been exposed to COVID, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a mask to help prevent spread. Anyone who is not feeling well should stay home.”
Currently, decreases in cases and hospitalizations and increased access to vaccines, testing, and treatment indicate Michigan is entering a post-surge, recovery phase of the cycle, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to a release from the OCHD on Feb. 11, the health division weighed several factors to determine the appropriate time to end the mask requirement in schools. The factors included a sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and the increasing vaccination rates in Oakland County.
In our weekly reporting of COVID-19 cases, we note we are at the lowest rate since last August. On August 29 the number of recent cases for the community was 129; this week we report there were 128 recent cases.
News of the relaxing of mask wearing was received well on social media. The Leader asked readers online, “(We) would like your comments on lifting of masks for an upcoming article. Be kind. Be polite and you might end up in the paper!” We received 69 comments, all glad for the change, some still upset that there was a mask mandate to begin with.
Amber Haggadone wrote, “My girls (ages 6 and 9) were so excited for school on Monday. They were up, and dressed, and ready like they would be for a class party. With 30+ minutes left. My 6 year old has never gone to school without a mask. Her words were, ‘I got to breath all the air!’
“Both my girls were so happy when they got home on Monday and even now they have been loving school, and getting to play and sit with their friends again.”
Jennifer Hart, wrote, “We are relieved that numbers have dropped significantly and we can start to relax some. We still have children under five who haven’t had a chance to be vaccinated yet, so we might choose to still mask up in certain situations but we are looking forward to getting back to things that we’ve missed!”
Michelle Walls wrote, “My daughter is so much happier! She hasn’t seen faces in two years and this is just what was needed after the high school tragedy so all the students can come together and feel alive again.”
Sara Ford simply stated, “My middle schooler was so happy!”
Heidi Vandagriff wrote, “Let’s just say our mornings are much happier without the last min. scramble to find a face mask for the day.
Kerri Allison wrote, “I’m a bus driver for another district and seeing the smiles and real faces made my week!”
Earl Legree III said, “I’m glad it was lifted. By the end of the day, the kids masks were completely soaked and disgusting.
Richard Lee Green quipped, “Our town needs to see smiles. . . Especially from our kids!”
Shannon Strong wrote, “Well, I think at this point, it’s a personal choice. I will still be masking up when I feel it’s necessary. This isn’t over yet.”
Barb Dery wrote, “I think it is time, but I work with young children and I choose to keep wearing mine. It is a parents choice to decide what is best for their child. What would be great if we could not shame anyone who decides to wear or not wear a mask.”
Dawn Wilson DeBruyne, “I’m glad the mandates have been lifted but people should do whatever makes them comfortable without judgment from others. I personally didn’t agree with the mandates but wore a mask where required out of respect for others.”
Susan Huber wrote, “Nice to be free of masks and cautiously optimistic that cases will stay low without them. Whether a person decides to wear a mask or not is their choice and should be respected.”
Nicole Bratton wrote, “It’s about time!! Parents should have had the choice all along!”
Melissa Hanks Ketchel said, “While I am glad the mask mandate is lifted, I will hope that people have learned a little about staying home when sick, keeping their kids home when sick, and possibly wearing a mask if they or their kids feel off. Personal liberties and health should never be made political.”
Mike Whitney wrote, “ . . . it’s . . . kind of sad. So much of our individuality has been hidden the last two years and for those kids that know nothing different for school (k-3), it’s a strange place that we find ourselves now. I’m glad that it is finally an easy choice for everyone now.”

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