More schools rescind mask mandates as COVID numbers drop



West Carrollton is latest; Public Health urges vigilance, pointing to low vaccination rate among people under 20

In the last week, at least four local school districts have rescinded their COVID-inspired mask mandates for students and staff within their buildings, and others are discussing the possibility.

West Carrollton schools announced Monday that masks would be optional beginning Feb. 22. Centerville, Kettering and Xenia all announced last week that students and staff will no longer need to wear masks in the buildings. Beavercreek will no longer require masks beginning Feb. 22.

Multiple districts, including Tipp City, Troy, Miamisburg, Springboro and Huber Heights, had already taken away mask mandates. Others, including Dayton Public Schools, Trotwood-Madison, Oakwood and Yellow Springs, still have a mask mandate in place.

ExploreCenterville, Kettering, Beavercreek schools drop mask mandate

The school districts who did take away mask mandates last week cited falling COVID-19 caseloads as a key piece of their decisions.

“I believe this is a step in the right direction of getting our district closer to our pre-pandemic practices,” said Paul Otten, superintendent of Beavercreek schools. “We will continue to track our positive case counts, monitor the impact of COVID-19 in individual buildings, and maintain a close watch on this virus and its effects on our students, staff, and community.”

COVID impacts have declined significantly in Ohio in the past month. In mid-January, there were more than 6,500 Ohioans hospitalized with COVID. On Monday, a month later, that number had fallen by two-thirds, to 2,199. Caseloads specifically in the Dayton area followed a similar pattern, spiking just after the holiday season, then falling in recent weeks.

Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, issued a word of caution as schools back off mask mandates.

Children can still have complications from the disease, Suffoletto said, and COVID-19 is a leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 11 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“We are encouraged by the recent downward trend of cases, however COVID-19 continues to be a health threat in our community and individuals and parents should continue to take steps to help stop the spread,” Suffoletto said. “Even with the current downward trend in cases, there are still a high number of individual cases in our community, a high number of hospitalizations, and not enough people vaccinated.”

ExploreMAP: How vaccinated is your ZIP code against COVID?

In changing its mask policy, Centerville school officials cited the rising numbers of vaccinated people in their local zip codes, noting 79% of people are vaccinated in the 45458 zip code and 77% are vaccinated in 45459. Children whose parents are vaccinated are more likely to be vaccinated themselves, Suffoletto noted, and vaccines can protect people against severe disease.

According to a Dayton Daily News analysis from last week, those zip codes are among the most vaccinated in the region. Overall, vaccination trends tend to correlate with other factors related to health outcomes, such as poverty and education, the previous investigation found. Also among the most vaccinated zip codes are 45419, which includes Oakwood and parts of Kettering, and 45387, which includes Yellow Springs.

But Suffoletto noted anyone under the age of 5 can’t be vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, and the vaccination rate of those below the age of 20 in Ohio is just 29%. For people who are over the age of 18, the Ohio Department of Public Health reports the vaccination rate is 71.6%.

ExploreVaccination gaps: Why some local areas are 3 times higher, others lag

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