GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Western Michigan’s two largest counties ordered masks Friday in schools through sixth grade, citing the risk of the COVID-19 delta variant and young children who don’t qualify for vaccines.

The orders came from health departments in Kent and Ottawa counties.

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“Many of our students are too young to be vaccinated so our order seeks to protect them and slow the transmission of the coronavirus in our schools and community,” said Lisa Stefanovsky, health officer in Ottawa County.

Teachers and staff members who are vaccinated still must wear masks in schools, the counties said.

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“We cannot afford another disrupted school year, so we all need to do our part to make sure that everyone remains healthy,” said Stefanovsky and Adam London, the health officer in Kent County.

Kent and Ottawa join at least three counties with similar school mask policies: Allegan, Kalamazoo, and Genesee. Some school districts elsewhere are acting on their own.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declined to order a statewide mask mandate in schools, though her chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said it would likely reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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