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Mask requirement extended to day cares, camps

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday extended her mask requirement to include many children who attend day care and camps, saying the step is necessary to ensure that such facilities can remain open and safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, child care centers and camps were exempt from her order to wear a face covering inside enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor places, though masks had been highly recommended at camps when small groups cross paths and cannot socially distance.

The new directive, which takes effect Monday, applies to all staff and children ages 2 and up on a school bus and those ages 4 and older in indoor hallways and common areas. Staff and children ages 12 and older must wear a mask in classrooms, cabins or similar indoor settings.

The Democratic governor noted there have been COVID-19 outbreaks at day care facilities and camps, and said the new rules align with those covering pre-K-12 schools. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said masks are one of the best ways to contain the spread of COVID-19 and can be safely worn by most people over age 2.

RETURN TO SCHOOL

Also Thursday, dozens of teachers chanted and waved signs at the state Capitol during a rally to bring attention to the danger of schools reopening for in-person learning later this month and after Labor Day.

“Let’s consider the number of teachers or staff or students whose lives that we are willing to risk before we are forced to go online,”

Livonia music teacher Mackenzie Sato said during an impassioned speech.

The rally was organized by MI CORE, a teachers union caucus.

“We’re fighting for a safe return to school. For most of us that means starting online,” said Nichole Hartrick, a teacher in the Dearborn school district and one of the organizers of the event in Lansing.

Under Whitmer’s return-to-school plan, in-person classes are allowed for the first time since March but not required in Michigan’s virus reopening plan’s phase four, which covers most of the state, or five, which includes northern Michigan. Schools must follow safety protocols. Several districts, including Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and many in and around Lansing, have announced plans to start the school year with only online instruction.

“So, here’s my big question: What’s the acceptable body count? I’m really asking. In order to send us completely virtual for the beginning of the year, how many people need to die,” Sato asked.

DETROIT CASINOS

Detroit’s three casinos are reopening at limited capacity after nearly five months of being closed to slow the spread of the virus.

“We’ve been preparing for many months for this day in terms of both getting the property ready to open, … implementing new health and safety protocols, and making sure that we can open in a responsible and safe way,” David Tsai of MGM Resorts said during an interview Wednesday inside the MGM Grand Detroit, which opens to the general public on Friday.

Whitmer in March ordered casinos closed along with gyms, bars and theaters in an effort to slow the rate of infection by limiting person-to-person contact and promoting social distancing, which are measures that are difficult to follow in casinos.

Revenue from the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity and Greektown casinos has plummeted since, leaving the city without a major source of tax revenue.

The three casinos were permitted to reopen on Wednesday. They had to ban smoking and limit crowds to 15% of capacity.

MGM Grand Detroit’s hotel and some restaurants remain closed, and Tsai said only 40% of its slot machines are active, “so that we can create social distancing between guests when they arrive.”

“We provide not only jobs, obviously, to our own team members, who we are excited to be back at work,” he said. “But also we know we are an important part of what we provide to the city and state financially through our tax contributions. So, we are excited.”

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