Mask advisory in full-effect for Michigan as we approach our second pandemic holiday season

click to enlarge The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a mask advisory regardless of vaccination status. -
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is issuing a mask advisory regardless of vaccination status.

It's scarf, hat, and puffy coat weather in Michigan, and according to a new advisory from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there's another accessory that is, hopefully, going to get us through the holiday season.

On Friday, following the Food and Drug Administration's official authorization of COVID-19 booster shots for all adults, MDHHS is recommending everyone 2-years-old and older wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. The department also suggests that establishments (stores, banks, restaurants, etc.) implement a mask-mandatory policy for patrons, guests, as well as for employees.

The face mask advisory is in effect until further notice.

"The increases in case counts, percent positivity, and hospitalizations have us very concerned," MDHHS director Elizabeth Hertel said in a press release. "We are issuing the face mask advisory and are looking to Michiganders to do their part to help protect their friends, their families, and their communities by wearing a mask in indoor settings and getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu as soon as possible if they have not already done so."

The mask advisory comes at a critical time, as Michigan is currently the nation's No. 1 hotspot for COVID-19 cases. Data reveals the surge in cases is being driven by the unvaccinated, despite the fact that, just this week, Michigan reported that more than 70% of the state's population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, more than 80% of Michigan residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated.

As a result, hospitals statewide are at the brink of capacity and the number of patients with COVID has jumped nearly 50% since last month. Henry Ford Health System reports 69% of its 289 COVID cases are unvaccinated people and Spectrum Health has 370 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 86% of whom are unvaccinated.

"What we’re seeing is truly unprecedented," Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan said. "Our teams are tired but working hard to care for their communities. We’re counting on people to help us by getting vaccinated or getting a booster dose if eligible, wearing masks and being smart about holiday gatherings."

While getting fully vaccinated is the best first step in unburdening hospitals and keeping communities large and small safe, the vaccines' immunity appears to, well, need a boost when it comes to its efficacy, making boosters critical in the fight against COVID-19, as the virus is also circulating among those who are fully vaccinated. Hence, the need to mask up.

The MDHHS is also reminding folks to social distance when possible, especially in places and spaces where people's vaccination status is unknown. You should also stay home if you are feeling unwell. Since we are also in the throes of flu season (remember the flu?) officials encourage everyone to get a flu shot, which can be administered at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

Of course, this urgent messaging comes just before our second pandemic holiday season, which will likely find people traveling across state lines to visit multiple households. The MDHHS suggests being fully vaccinated before partaking in travel or considering delaying if you're not. If delaying travel is not an option, they suggest frequent testing in addition to mask-wearing.

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