by J.D. Davidson
Growing COVID-19 Delta variant cases and more school closures have led Ohio’s largest teachers union to again call upon school districts around the state impose mask mandates on students, teachers and staff.
The Ohio Education Association said in a news release it wants local school districts to temporarily require all students and staff to wear masks inside school buildings until the current wave of Delta variant cases subsides.
“We are now seeing a record numbers of kids with COVID-19 and hospitalized in ICUs throughout Ohio and the nation,” OEA President Scott DiMauro said. “It is clear from the data we have gathered that the Delta variant poses far greater risk for our students, especially those who have not been vaccinated.”
DiMauro said more than half of all Ohio students aren’t eligible for vaccinations.
Most of the state’s largest school districts, including Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, began the year requiring masks inside buildings. Others, though, have joined as the school year progressed.
Seventeen school districts, the OEA said, have interrupted in-person learning at some point this school year. It also reported 7,705 cases involving students and 2,254 cases involving staff this school year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health have issued strongly worded recommendations for masks in schools, but Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine consistently has said the state has no appetite for new mandates and only encourages local districts to implement mask mandates.
Ohio Department of Health guidance also allows unvaccinated people to skip quarantine if they come in contact with someone who tested positive if they have constantly worn a mask and maintained social distancing.
“We want in-person learning to continue unabated,” DiMauro said. “However, without widespread student vaccinations, the only way for that to happen safely for students is temporarily requiring masking in schools.”
DeWine lost the ability mandate masks when the General Assembly passed a bill that required legislative approval for new emergency orders. DeWine vetoed the bill but the General Assembly voted to override it.
Ohio reported 4,876 new cases COVID-19 cases Tuesday with a seven-day average of 5,874. Those were the highest reported numbers since late January.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “School Children in Masks” by Metro Nashville Schools.