By Jon King /

There were 101 new COVID-19 outbreaks linked to schools last week, including several in Livingston County.

That’s according to the state’s latest weekly report, which indicates 18 Livingston County students tested positive in connection with in-school transmission at four local schools; Round, Lakes and Creekside elementary schools in the Hartland Consolidated Schools district, and both the Charyl Stockwell Academy charter school in Hartland Township and the Stockwell Preparatory Academy in Brighton.

As WHMI reported earlier Monday, the outbreak at Creekside Elementary has forced a mask mandate there for all students and staff through Friday, November 12th. An outbreak is defined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as three or more cases with a link by place and time indicating a shared exposure outside of a household.

Meanwhile, a plan proposed by Livingston County School Superintendents would no longer require students in grades 7 through 12 identified as close contacts of a confirmed case from having to “be excluded from school” as long as they are asymptomatic. The plan, which has gained approval from the Livingston County Health Department, would require those students to not have recently tested positive for COVID nor any individual in their household. In addition, that student would also not have to recently been in close proximity to an identified school-related outbreak.

The Fowlerville Community Schools Board of Education scheduled a special meeting Monday night to discuss the plan and voted unanimously to extend the no quarantine policy to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

According to LCHD Director Dianne McCormick, the primary basis for the revision request made by the superintendents is that “no notable increases in school-related COVID-19 transmission were found during a pilot, which reduced the distance for determining student close contacts from 6 feet to 3 feet during the month of October.” McCormick notes that more than 10,000 county students have been excluded from in-person learning since the beginning of the school year “of which a majority has not developed COVID-19 from exposure in the school; and the COVID-19 vaccine is available for students age 12 and above.”

While many parents have been asking for districts to drop their quarantine procedures altogether, most recently at last week’s Brighton Area Schools board meeting, other parents are concerned that this will make a bad situation worse. Katie Deck of Howell is with the Michigan Parents Alliance for Safe Schools (MiPASS) “Stopping the quarantines is only going to cause more cases and more kids (to get) sick (and) they still will miss school. Parents will get sick and miss work. You can’t really compare the two different scenarios though. Just because you didn’t see an increase between 6 feet and 3 feet, doesn’t mean there won’t be an increase between 3 feet and zero.” Deck added that “If we had a mask mandate in place, we would have less cases, and eliminating quarantines would seem more reasonable.”

However, McCormick says that the MDHHS Safer Schools Guidance “encourages schools and local health departments to work collaboratively on what quarantine/exclusion policies work best in their community,” and that the LCHD “will continue to work collaboratively with local schools as they move forward with the proposal to make exclusions for asymptomatic children that have the ability to be fully vaccinated in grades 7-12.” She added that schools will continue conducting contact tracing and will provide notification to LCHD and to parents of students identified as a close contact in the school setting along with additional recommendations.

In addition, McCormick says that there are no changes for the exclusion process for the students in grades K-6th grade “as this age group are not able to be fully vaccinated. LCHD will continue to closely monitor community and school data and provide timely updates to school districts, so they can make informed decisions for their specific school community. If any concerning trends or outbreaks are identified, LCHD will work with the schools to recommend additional mitigation measures in these environments, as we have done in the past.”

According to the LCHD’s COVID Dashboard, the 0-19 age range has the highest number of COVID cases in the county, with more the 4,700. In addition, according to the MI Safe Start Map, there were 28 COVID deaths of Livingston County residents in October, more than double the rate from September, when 13 local deaths were recorded.