By Tom Tolen & Jon King /

The Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services has updated its rules for mask-wearing, gatherings, specific events and organized sports. The state has also passed all responsibility for contact tracing and quarantining to local health departments.

At Monday’s Brighton Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Matthew Outlaw told the board that as such, the school district has been able to make modifications in regard to the spacing of classroom desks and certain other aspects of daily classroom life. Outlaw says the less stringent rules will make it easier for students to conform to social distancing rules. The superintendent says nearly all desks in the district can now be about three feet apart or greater, adding, in his words, “This should dramatically decrease the number of quarantines within the district.”

Howell Superintendent Erin MacGregor sent a letter to district parents Tuesday noting that among other changes recommended by the Livingston County Health Department, students “who are considered close contact between three and six feet in a classroom or bus setting (where all individuals are wearing masks) will no longer need to enter quarantine and can continue to attend school. Instead, families will be notified and asked to monitor their child's health for 14 days from the date of exposure. If they feel ill or develop symptoms, they need to isolate themselves at home and get tested.”

He also noted that because of the changes, the district is adjusting their parent notifications regarding COVID-19 so that only close contacts who are required to quarantine will receive an email and phone call, while close contacts not required to quarantine and students who share a class with a student who is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 will only receive an email. MacGregor says, however, building-wide emails for each COVID-19 case will be discontinued, “as that information is reported on the district's COVID-19 dashboard.”

State officials say the new rules went into effect on May 6th and remain so until May 31st. As of now, masks are “generally not required” for outdoor gatherings unless the crowd exceeds 100 people. Although masks are still mandated for contact sports, they are no longer a requirement for outdoor practices and contests involving non-contact sports. An example provided by the state is that softball and baseball players must wear masks in the dugout but need not do so while at bat or playing in the infield or outfield.

Brighton High School Athletic Director John Thompson says mask and testing requirements are still in place for Brighton Area Schools athletes. The only exceptions would be student-athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days, or are fully vaccinated and it’s been at least 14 days since their last shot of the vaccine, are exempted from weekly testing.