Ohio hospitals ask schools to keep or bring back mask mandates to help with soaring COVID numbers

 A masked student walks the hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, as students came back to in-person learning with a mask mandate in place.
A masked student walks the hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, as students came back to in-person learning with a mask mandate in place. [Daniel Konik / Statehouse News Bureau]
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Ohio hit a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday, and medical professionals are now battling the fast-spreading omicron variant while still dealing with the delta variant.

So Ohio’s major hospital systems are asking school superintendents, administrators and board members to impose mask mandates for kids returning to class after winter break.

Read the letter here.

The hospitals addressed the letter to school officials rather than Gov. Mike DeWine, whose authority to impose health orders was limited by a state law passed this year that he vetoed and Republican lawmakers overrode.

“We don’t have the practical ability to really put on a statewide mask order at this point. I don’t think it’s appropriate at this point," said DeWine at a press conference Wednesday.

He said he supports the hospitals in their request to school leaders.

“Very, very strong letter, very, very powerful letter, children’s hospitals saying please, please have a mask mandate on when kids start back to school," DeWine said.

As of December 16, according to the Ohio Department of Education, masks were optional in just over half of Ohio’s more than 600 public school districts, representing more than 70% of all public school students in the state. Around 40% of districts require masks, representing less than a quarter of all students.

Kids under age five aren’t eligible for the vaccines.

Ohio has seen a 125% jump in hospitalizations for kids under 17. According to Dr. Robert Wyllie, the chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio has the highest overall hospitalization rate, adjusted for population, of any state in the country.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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