Ohio is considering new demands for universal masking in schools

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Health is “carefully” reviewing new guidelines from the country’s leading pediatrician association calling for universal masking in schools, the state’s chief medical officer said Wednesday.

What you need to know

  • Ohio will leave it to local school officials to make the final decisions about COVID-19 mask guidelines
  • New guidelines from the leading pediatrician association call for universal masking
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the CDC is reviewing its guidelines for masks in schools

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the Ohio Department of Health, said the state will soon issue its own recommendations to schools regarding masks.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that while vaccinations are our best protection against COVID-19, many K-12 students are still unable to get a vaccine, some communities have low vaccination intake, and we continue to face more contagious varieties.” explained Vanderhoff during a press conference.

In Ohio, school administrators will be making the final calls regarding mask guidelines, he said.

“As the Ministry of Health, it is our job to evaluate the information and give people the best possible guidance and recommendations. This will be our approach, ”said Vanderhoff. “It is up to the schools themselves and elsewhere to review this information and make this decision.”

The doctor’s comments come as COVID-19 cases rise in Ohio and across the country.

Vanderhoff said the state is actively considering two guidelines on masking in schools that offer different recommendations, including input from other stakeholders.

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines that said students should wear face masks regardless of vaccination status in school.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday on CBS that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reviewing their COVID-19 school mask guidelines, but the agency is not currently recommending masks for vaccinated students. Fauci said he hoped there would soon be a “concordance” between the two recommendations.

Ohio won’t require masks in schools this year, which will be a change from last year when the state passed COVID-19 health ordinances, Vanderhoff said.

Some Ohio counties have indicated that they will start the year with masks, including schools in Cleveland, but most Ohio counties have no plans to encourage them.

Young people now represent a greater proportion of infections in Ohio because adults were vaccinated more often, Vanderhoff said. From May to June, 20% of the cases were in people under the age of 20, and the age group accounted for 5% of hospital admissions.

The emergence of the Delta variant, which is becoming immediately prevalent in Ohio, puts young people at greater risk, Vanderhoff said, suggesting the state will continue to recommend a cautious approach to unvaccinated teenagers.

“The school environment is unique. It’s special because the majority of the students we consider in the K-12 age group don’t currently have access to a vaccine, ”he said.

Vanderhoff was welcomed by Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, Chief of Staff and Pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Amy Edwards, Assistant Medical Director, Pediatric Infection Control at the University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has been involved in youth vaccine trials, and Manning said it couldn’t be more clear that vaccinations are the best way to protect children in school.

“We have seen through these studies that children respond remarkably and wonderfully to these vaccines. They are very well protected and have very minimal side effects, ”she said.

Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, chief of staff and pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said during the press conference this morning she feared we are one mutation away from a variant that puts children at great risk. @ SpectrumNews1OH pic.twitter.com/e7jnQn7sHg

– Pete Grieve (@pete_grieve) July 21, 2021

Edwards, who is an AAP scholar, said she personally agreed to the association’s universal masking guidelines. She said she hopes masks will stay in schools this year because she is concerned about reports from states with more advanced progression of the Delta variant where pediatric hospitals are seeing rising patient numbers.

“You can look at other states to see where we are going. Look at Mississippi, they have a record number of children in intensive care. If you look at Arkansas, child hospital admissions are on the rise. Ohio, we don’t want to follow in their footsteps. We don’t want to fill our pediatric intensive care units with COVID, ”she said.

Pete Grieve is a member of the Report for America Corps, which covers public health for Spectrum News in Columbus, Ohio. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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