DeWine: Goal of children attending school in person is at risk

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Gov. Mike DeWine said the delta variant of COVID-19 is putting Ohio’s goal of having children in school for in-person learning at risk just as students are headed back to school.

“The spread of the delta variant has dramatically accelerated since we last held a public briefing 10 days ago. We are at the highest number of new cases since February. Today we’re reporting 3,235 cases,” DeWine said Tuesday afternoon during a press briefing streamed live at the the Ohio Channel.

“The best way to prevent your kids from missing school and other activities is to send them to school with a mask. And if they’re 12 or older, to get them vaccinated as soon as you can,” DeWine said.

The governor said he is appealing directly to parents, school officials and school board members across the state to help keep children in the classroom.

“We are clearly well past the time when the state can mandate to parents and school districts what actions to take. These decisions today rest with the parents and school officials,” he said. “Our children simply cannot afford another disrupted school year.

“It’s the children who will suffer when schools shut down. … They are the ones who get further and further behind, and that will not be fair for them,” DeWine said.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, who joined DeWine for the press briefing, said that five-days a week, in-person learning is important for the cognitive, social and emotional development of children.

He explained that the delta variant that has in-person education at risk is more contagious than the earlier coronavirus strains and is making people of all ages sicker, quicker.

“It is also now clearly the dominant strain in Ohio,” said Vanderhoff, who said it is more contagious than the common cold or flu.

More than 63,000 people in Ohio have been hospitalized and more than 20,000 killed due to COVID-19 in the state since the pandemic began.

Although there are reports of breakthrough cases of people who have been vaccinated becoming infected with COVID-19, Vanderhoff and DeWine said the people at risk of severe illness remain those who are not vaccinated.

Currently, only 35% of children 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated in Ohio, compared to 57% for adults, according to Ohio Department of Health data.

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With the delta variant spreading and cases and hospitalizations rising across the country, health experts are expected to recommend an additional vaccine shot for Americans eight months after they received their second dose, according to the Associated Press. The announcement could come as soon as this week.

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recommending an additional dose for people who are immunocompromised and received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“This is a recommendation for a very small group of individuals, individuals who are at heightened risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19,” Vanderhoff said during a Friday media briefing.

Those who are severely immunocompromised make up an estimated 3% of Ohio’s population.

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