Coronavirus: Masks required for staff, recommended for most students

Ohio is requiring school staff to wear face coverings when school starts in the fall and is strongly recommending students in third grade and up wear masks, according to guidelines released Thursday by Gov. Mike DeWine.

As part of five guidelines, schools will have to implement their own face coverings policy, assess students and staff for symptoms, wash and sanitize hands, clean and sanitize schools and practice social distancing.

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The governor said face masks may not be practical for all staff, such as those teaching foreign languages or working with students who have special needs. He encouraged schools to take advantage of different technology, such as face shields, that would permit staff to cover their mouths and noses and help prevent the spread of the virus.

“We have an obligation, all of us, to educate our children and keep them safe,” DeWine said.

When developing guidelines, the governor said that dozens of teachers and superintendents across the state as well as medical experts were consulted. He added that the state worked to make guidelines flexible to allow schools to adjust plans to their needs.

Montgomery and Butler counties are among those with a very high coronavirus exposure and spread, based off a new public alert system unveiled by DeWine Thursday.

The Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System consists of a color-coded system to assess coronavirus spread and inform individuals, businesses and local officials.

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The system has four levels to guide Ohioans on the severity of the problem in each county. The level a county is in is determined by seven data indicators, such as new cases per capita, sustained increase in emergency room visits and ICU bed occupancy.

The more indicators a county meets, the more severe of the level it’s in. Level 1 is the least severe and Level 4 is the most severe.

There are no counties in Level 4, but Franklin County is approaching it, DeWine said.

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Montgomery and Butler counties are both in Level 3, the second most severe level.

As of June 30, Montgomery County meets five of the seven indicators. The average daily visits to the emergency room has more than doubled, DeWine said, and 80% of cases are community spread. Outpatient visits to hospitals have more than quadrupled.

Butler County is meeting four of the indicators. The average new cases reported in county each day has doubled. The number of coronavirus patients in the county’s hospitals and ICUs has doubled since the second week of June, DeWine said.

Preble, Greene, Warren and Clark counties are in Level 2 and Darke, Miami, Champaign and Shelby counties are in Level 1.

“In this next phase of the pandemic, saving lives and protecting Ohioans remain our priority,” he said. “We cannot move backward. Ohioans have come too far in this fight to cede ground now.”

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On Monday, the governor shared concerns as the state saw its first increase in hospitalizations in nearly two months.

While none of Ohio’s regions are at the 80% hospital capacity threshold, DeWine stressed that people need to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks to make sure there are enough hospital beds and ICU beds for those needing care.

Wednesday, the state saw more than 1,000 new cases of coronavirus reported.


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