DeWine pleads with schools to require masks when classes resume

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday said the best ways to ensure teachers and students stay in schools for in-person learning when returning from the holiday break is for school leaders to mandate masks and for parents to get their children vaccinated.

DeWine spoke at a press conference amid a record surge of new cases and hospitalizations in the Buckeye State.

Representatives of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Ohio Hospital Association sent school officials a letter Tuesday urging them to revive mask mandates if not already in place. Fellow Republican state lawmakers severely limited DeWine’s ability to make such mandates, and Wednesday the governor said the power is with school superintendents and boards of education.

“Please consider putting these mandates on,” DeWine said echoed, specifically during the current wave that he said could last a few more weeks.

He also said parents should have their children ages 5 and older vaccinated.

“We all share the same goals,” DeWine said. “We all want our kids in schools.”

In early fall, a majority of local K-12 schools required masks, with more mask requirements in Montgomery County than the surrounding region. Since then, Huber Heights, Valley View, Springboro, Carroll High School and some others have dropped their mask mandates. Troy and the Miami Valley CTC have announced plans to drop theirs Jan. 3, while Kettering and Centerville plan to re-evaluate their mandates in mid-January. Others including Dayton, Northmont, Fairborn and Trotwood are sticking with their mask mandates.

The letter from hospitals to schools said: “To those who do not currently have a mask requirement, we respectfully ask that you consider one as your students return after holiday break. Health experts around Ohio have recommended Ohio schools have masking policies until more students get vaccinated, and that remains their recommendation as students return to school next week.”

The letter, which included the signature of Dayton Children’s CEO Deborah Feldman, called mask mandates more urgent now because of the rapid rise of the omicron variant.

The virus spreads when people cough, sneeze, talk or sing.

“The best ways to slow the spread of the virus are to get vaccinated and wear a mask,” the letter said. “Even students who are asymptomatic or who have relatively mild symptoms have the ability to spread the virus to others. Their fellow students might then carry the virus home, spreading it to brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents.”

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