Michigan’s new coronavirus order: masks for little kids at camp, child care

Face masks are required for most at camps and child care centers, but not northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. (Shutterstock)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday ordered staffers and most children at camps and child care centers in much of Michigan to wear face masks beginning Monday. 

The announcement came shortly after public health officials linked a central Michigan summer camp to an outbreak of more than 50 cases of coronavirus in campers and staff  — and shortly before many schools prepare to return to in-person instruction. 

“Child-care workers have been on the front lines of this crisis and have worked tirelessly to provide a safe place for our children and families during this time,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect people of all ages from COVID-19. By masking up, we can all be a part of the solution.”

Face masks won’t be required in child care centers in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, regions that are in Phase 5 of reopening, as long as they remain at that stage.

The order requires masks be worn by staff and: 

  • Children over the age of 2 when on a bus or other transportation. 
  • Those over 4 in indoor hallways and in common areas. 
  • Children over 12 in classrooms, houses, cabins or elsewhere indoors. 

Children are exempt from wearing a mask if they’re under 2, can’t tolerate them or remove them without help and while eating, sleeping, swimming or exercising (singing and cheering, however, aren’t exempt). 

Masks also aren’t required if children are outside and able to socially distance by six feet.

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states have implemented similar rules in recent weeks, prompting debate about whether young children will follow them or tolerate masks for long periods.

There’s no such thing as social distancing under the age of 5,” said Elisabeth Tobia, executive director of Educational Child Care Center in Lansing.

Elisabeth Tobia, executive director of Educational Child Care Center in Lansing, said she doesn’t anticipate the requirement will be a big change, as many parents have already taught their children how to wear masks in public.

 “I can’t say I think it’s a bad idea,” she said.

Still, Tobia said it may be challenging to get young children to wear masks for such a long period and may cause them to touch their faces more as they fuss with the face covering. 

“There’s no such thing as social distancing under the age of 5,” Tobia said

She added there are concerns about young children learning how to speak without seeing adults’ mouths, though she’s looking into purchasing clear-paneled masks that can help avoid that. 

Daryl Sieplinga, CEO of the Michigan YMCA, said there are only three YMCA overnight camps that opened for the summer, and they should be wrapping up their season within the next week or two. However, day camps and childcare centers are likely to continue to operate throughout the fall. 

Sieplinga said the order, Whitmer’s 160th since the pandemic started in mid-March, was a small surprise, but many of the camps and child care centers already are following its protocols.  

He acknowledged some parents won’t be eager to comply but the YMCA will focus on communicating with families ahead of time. 

“Our Ys are really supportive of whatever we can do to help assure that we think first of the health of the kids and families in the state,” he said. “None of this is easy or comfortable but all of it is important.”

Tom Rosenberg, president of the American Camp Association, said rules have varied for camps and childcare centers throughout the country, but most have taken extraordinary measures to protect children from exposure, including quarantining children beforehand and bunking them in “households” to prevent spread. 

“Kids are learning to adapt” and mask requirements are no different, he said. Most camps, however, work with children who are at least school-aged.

Both Sieplinga and Rosenberg said mask requirements for kids at camp can be a good training ground for those who may be returning to school in the fall by helping them get comfortable with coronavirus-related precautions.

“It's almost like an ethos: If we do this together and we can have camp,” he said. The same goes for in-person schooling, where the psychological and social benefits for children has been a major part of discussions over school reopening.

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Fri, 08/07/2020 - 12:04am

Thank goodness our kids are going to a camp in one of the sane counties that are ignoring these "orders". Kids are at zero percent risk from coronavirus. Healthy adults, even older ones are at zero risk from coronavirus. What a joke this governor is. Makes us sick that we voted for her.

Lakeshore fan
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 10:19am

I totally agree with you. I am starting to think our governor arises every morning and decides what ridiculous executive order she can sign, with a smirk, for the day. This week alone, she has ordered the state police to enforce her mask edicts, with reduced funding, stated we all are racists and now day care workers are supposed to keep masks on little kids! What will be today’s order?

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 10:29am

Tell that to the loved ones of the 160,000+ people that died. Tell that to the 4,000,000+ infected Americans infected.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 6:34pm

Every disease viral or bacterial has a death rate... RSV, Influenza, Viral Meningitis, Adenovirus, Rhinovirus , Viral Pneumonia, ETC..... All have the potential or have been deadly to some people. Just because you get a virus or bacterium does not mean you will die. It revolves around the many reactions within each body to determine the outcome whether your immunity will defeat it or succumb to it. Please before spouting numbers nonsense have scientific facts. The facts are always non bias and are truthful as hurtful as they may be.

Unfortunately we as society have lost many people to all types of diseases so what makes this any different? The answer is nothing . It has just been propagandized and used as a tool to exploit everyone physically and emotionally.

All the Best:
**The Science Grad 2007**

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:42am

Oh I'll gladly tell them, and you too!
Your statement might have a shred of meaning if those "4,000,000+ infected" were at any reasonable risk. Instead, they're more likely to die in a car accident than of coronavirus...
As far as the supposed 160k dead, we have zero transparency in those numbers; More than 2.8 million people die every year from obesity; Etc. 160k isn't really worth talking about and definitely is not a pandemic (Do you see anyone shutting down the economy because of the millions of obesity deaths? No!!!)
You need to learn to think independently.
I'm not a Trump voter, BTW, so don't even try and go down that rabbit hole.

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 8:15am

Your comparison to obesity makes no sense. Is obesity transmitted from person to person? Is obesity transmitted through airborn particles from people who don't know they are obese?

As far as an inaccurate death count. As with most pandemics, there is a higher probability that the current numbers are being under-reported, especially given the "excess death" statistics in March and April, when testing was more scarce.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 11:41am

Please tell the over 160,000 dead people and their families of those dead people that no one is at risk for COVID. Better yet, since you know so much more than medical , please PUT YOU MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS and volunteer to work at a hospital COVID ICU ward w/out a mask. Or you can stand next to a COVID positive person and breathe in his/her air to prove your well-researched,scientific theory. I DARE YOU.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:14pm

BINGO! Everyone I know who voted for her has serious regret. My kids will not be wearing that nonsense on their face as well.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:34pm

Larry, this patently false statement, "Healthy adults, even older ones are at zero risk from coronavirus," leads us to believe (1) the government is NOT a joke and (2) there is no way in hell you ever voted for a Democrat, let alone Whitmer.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:44am

You need to recheck your numbers and death facts (at least the few facts that we are allowed to see). You'll see that I am right. Or... You could endorse State Science, and believe what you're told, and toss those facts and REAL science down the toilet! Your choice - It's a free country. Just like it's my choice to ignore all this nonsense.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:55pm

Please read the story in the link below and tell the parents of this dead 7-year old that their child had no risk of getting COVID. Also talk to to the parents of the dead 6-year old referenced in the article. Note that this story is being reported by the always reliable/truthful/evidenced-based/data-driven Fox News, so no one can claim it is "fake news."


Mon, 08/10/2020 - 11:45am

Nice try at drama, but influenza has killed more than 10x the number of children as coronavirus in the same period of time, so you really have no argument here whatsoever and your attempted point is invalid. Sorry about that.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:13pm

My kids will NOT be wearing masks. Period.

A Yooper
Sat, 08/08/2020 - 1:17pm

I hear kids caskets are pretty cheap.
You might get a deal when you need more.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:30pm

Besides Larry and his supposed children, can any sane person think this is a bad idea?

260 kids and teens infected with COVID-19 at Georgia sleepaway camp

People like Larry would be the first to complain, under another alias of course, that Whitmer was incompetent if the Georgia debacle happened here.

So I'd say Whitmer is very wise given what just happened here in a Michigan camp.

Christian youth camp linked to dozens of new COVID-19 cases, Michigan official says

Read more here: https://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/national/article244744252.h...

The governor and We the People want to prevent another Georgia debacle from happening here. Sounds extremely reasonable to most sane people.

Nick Ciaramitaro
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 6:03pm

Some people continue to criticise (or should I say whine) about the Governor's wise executive orders. Comparing Michigan to the rest of the country, they are disproving the old adage that you can't argue with success!

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 7:25am

Our governor must be nuts if she thinks two year olds should be mandated to wear masks under penalty of law. This is the same governor that has been seen recently in public without a mask herself dozens of times. She is acting like a nut job for sure.