By Jon King /

As area students returned to the classroom Monday amid a surge in COVID cases statewide, an area science teacher has accused local health officials of “bald faced lying” when it comes to the spread of the virus in schools.

In an email addressed to a variety of state and local officials, including Governor Whitmer and Howell Public Schools Superintendent Erin MacGregor, Howell High School Science Teacher Crystal Carder noted that the Howell district, like every district in Livingston County, has no mask mandate in place while also taking part in what she called “alternative, or voluntary, quarantining”.

Carder said that while various authorities, including the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) and the Livingston County Health Department (LCHD) are highly recommending masks for students and staff, no one is requiring them. “Mr. MacGregor and the school board do not want to be blamed for implementing mandatory masks so they push it off to the county health department,” stated Carder. “The county health department says everyone should wear masks but the Sheriff will not enforce any mandate so why have one. The state says that it is up to county health departments to decide if masks should be a mandate. Meanwhile, children are being put in danger.”

Carder said the LCHD is “lying by omission, if not just bald faced lying,” when they say COVID-19 does not spread at schools; “like there is some magical force field around schools.” Carder says that as an educator, she has personally watched students in a table group contract COVID “one right after the other. Teachers everywhere can tell you the same thing. We watch this happen in front of our eyes and wait for the superintendent to notify us that there has been covid spread at school. We almost never see this in the data reported. As a scientist, a citizen, and a mother, I have lost trust in the county health department's ability to conduct unbiased science!”

Both of the epidemiologists hired by the Livingston County Health Department left late last year following implementation of the new alternative quarantine policy, which allows students to remain in school if they are showing no symptoms, although one of the hallmarks of the disease is a lack of symptoms for several days after infection.

In a letter to superintendents sent last Thursday, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel and Michael Rice, the state school superintendent, said that “universal indoor masking is a critical prevention strategy for all school districts to allow students to maintain in-person learning,” adding that mask use “has been proven to substantially reduce transmission in school settings.” The letter came a day after Michigan reported a record number of new COVID-19 infections.

In response to the email from Carder, Tom Gould, Howell Public Schools’ Director of Communications told WHMI that "Howell Public Schools will continue to partner with the Livingston County Health Department regarding the district's COVID-19 mitigation strategies."

A request for comment was also sent to LCHD Director Dianne McCormick but was not returned.