Ohio Health Officials Recommend Masks In Schools This Fall

Kids in uniforms exit a glass school building.
Details of COVID-19 guidance for Ohio schools will be online Tuesday. [Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock]

Citing a sharp spike in cases linked to the delta coronavirus variant, the Ohio Department of Health is issuing new guidance for K-12 schools, recommending unvaccinated staff and students wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces when classes resume for the fall term.

The department’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said the recommendation is not a requirement.

“While there are not mandates associated with this guidance, we believe the recommendations we are issuing are essential to the health of Ohio’s youth and the success of the coming school year,” he said in a Monday virtual press conference.

ODH also strongly recommends that any student or staff eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine get one. 

Vaccines, Vanderhoff said, are the strongest protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant. He called COVID-19 a threat primarily for unvaccinated Ohioans.

“It simply takes less of this virus to spread from the mouth of an infected person to that of another non-infected person,” Vanderhoff said. “Fortunately, our vaccines continue to provide strong protection even against this new variant.”

Currently, vaccines have been given emergency approval for individuals 12 years and older.  

“If you aren't yet sure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, we ask you to talk to your doctor or other trusted health care provider about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and side effects, which are mostly mild and short duration,” Vanderhoff said.

The new guidance will be posted on the ODH website no later than Tuesday.

Last week, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced plans to have students and staff wear masks for the first five weeks of school or until guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes.

A bill from State Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware County) would ban Ohio schools from requiring masks. It has yet to have a hearing.

Earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill banning public schools and colleges from requiring students and staff to be vaccinated. The bill does not take effect until October, so some schools are requiring vaccines before the fall term begins.

The new law also only applies to vaccines not granted full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently approved for emergency use.

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