COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Health is issuing an order requiring K-12 students to wear face masks while at school to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The new decree comes after the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter released a joint letter recommending widespread use of masks in schools.
“Wearing masks is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” they wrote. “Almost all people, including young children, can wear face coverings and surgical/cloth masks safely.”
There are some exceptions to the new mandate, including children two years old or younger and children who cannot remove the mask without help. There are also exceptions for children with developmental or physical challenges.
“Without a vaccine, we are limited in the ways that we can protect the people of Ohio,” DeWine said in a statement. “For schools to have a fighting chance to stay open this fall, widespread face coverings for K-12 students will increase the odds that kids will go to school and stay in school.”
On Aug. 4, the state reported 95,106 “confirmed and probable” cases of COVID-19 and 3,570 “confirmed and probable” deaths from the virus.
Last month, DeWine issued a new order requiring Ohioans to wear a mask while in public. This week, he reiterated his warning about the community spread of the virus, which originated in China, between family and friends.
“The truth is that it is easier to be scared of a stranger than a friend,” DeWine said. “Maintaining social distance and choosing to not gather together is really a sign that you care about your loved ones.”
The governor also said he is reaching out to faith-based organizations to share ways to better protect their worshippers after a 56-year-old man may have spread the virus to 91 people from five counties during a church service.
“I know that our faith-based leaders want nothing more than to protect their worshippers, but we also know that the virus can easily spread in places where people gather,” DeWine said. “It is vital that, any time people gather together, everyone wear masks, practice social distancing, wash hands, and while indoors, making sure there is good ventilation and airflow.”
However, the new mandate for masks in schools was not met with excitement by everyone. In a Facebook post, state Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, said DeWine continues to ignore Ohioans’ rights and local control.
“Our schools have spent SO much time working on a plan to keep everyone safe, DeWine AGAIN oversteps on constitutional freedom,” Powell wrote. “This (is) among (the) many reasons why school choice is important.”
Meanwhile, the governors of six states, including Ohio, announced an agreement to work with the Rockefeller Foundation to buy three million COVID-19 “rapid point-of-care” tests.