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Ohio hospitals ask schools to keep or bring back mask mandates to help with soaring COVID numbers

Masked student at Worthington Kilbourne March 2020.JPG
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A masked student walks the hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, as students came back to in-person learning with a mask mandate in place.

The hospital leaders asked officials at the state's more than 600 school districts to consider asking kids to wear masks when they return from the holiday break next week.

The state hit a record for COVID hospitalizations yesterday, and medical professionals are now battling the fast-spreading omicron variant while still dealing with the delta variant.

So Ohio’s major hospital systems are asking school superintendents, administrators and board members to impose mask mandates for kids coming back to class next week.

Read the letter here.

The hospitals addressed the letter to those school officials rather than Gov. Mike DeWine, whose authority to impose health orders was limited by a state law passed this year that he vetoed and Republican lawmakers overrode.

“We don’t have the practical ability to really put on a statewide mask order at this point. I don’t think it’s appropriate at this point," said DeWine at a press conference Wednesday.

DeWine said vaccines and voluntary mask wearing are tools to fight COVID. But he does support the hospitals’ in their request to school leaders.

“Very, very strong letter, very, very powerful letter, children’s hospitals saying please, please have a mask mandate on when kids start back to school," DeWine said.

As of December 16, according to the Ohio Department of Education, masks were optional in just over half of Ohio’s more than 600 public school districts, representing more than 70% of all public school students in the state. They were required for all students in around 40% of districts, representing less than a quarter of all students.

Kids under 5 aren’t eligible for the vaccine.

Ohio has seen a 125% jump in hospitalizations for kids under 17. And at that press conference Wednesday, Dr. Robert Wylie, the chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic, announced that the state has the highest overall hospitalization rate adjusted for population of any state in the country.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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