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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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    Parents protest in Oakland, Macomb Counties, opposing, supporting masks

    Parents rallying in Macomb and Oakland Counties on Wednesday don’t agree on masks, but they do share one, overarching feeling going into a new school year: anger. 

    In the morning, more than 200 parents acted swiftly in protesting against a new countywide mask mandate in front of Oakland County’s health division in Pontiac. 

    Across town in the evening, in front of Macomb County’s Health Department in Mount Clemens, about three dozen parents rallied in support of a county mask mandate, which Macomb County officials said was unlikely.

    Macomb County Parents for Safe in Person School rally to demand mask mandate in schools outside of Macomb County Health Department in Mount Clemens August 25, 2021.

    “There are some county health departments that are stepping in and making decisions on behalf of the schools, but again here in Macomb County we have been working almost daily with our schools and our superintendents, trying to get an understanding of where their boards are at,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said during a video address on Wednesday. 

    State, school and county leaders for weeks have been the subject of will-they-won’t-they speculation over mask mandates, perpetuating confusion over whether such orders should be up to individual school districts, state health officials or county health officials.

    Pamela Pugh, vice president of Michigan’s State Board of Education, attended the protest in Macomb in support of a mandate. She said politicking in Lansing has created an uneven approach to mask mandates, largely decided by counties or school boards.

    Pamela Pugh, vice president of Michigan State Board of Education speaks during a rally to demand mask mandate is schools outside of Macomb County Health Department in Mount Clemens August 25, 2021.

    “The governor has said that she and the Legislature have made a decision to act together to not protect the children,” she said.

    Through the uncertainty, vitriol and anger has emerged in school board meetings and elsewhere. A pair of Genesee County health officials received death threats this week after announcing a mask mandate for thousands of students in the county.

    Medical Health Officer Pamela Hackert and Genesee County’s Deputy Health Officer Kayleigh Blaney were threatened earlier this week, Blaney told the Free Press on Wednesday. She declined additional comment.

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