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Ohio Officials Recommend Schools Return to Full-Time, In-Person Learning, with Children Wearing Masks

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/27/21  1:30 PM PST
children wearing masks

Original article by Laura Hancock on cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio -The Ohio Department of Health announced Monday it will release recommendations for the operation of K-12 schools in the upcoming school year – which will include unvaccinated children wearing masks and full-time, in-person learning – to prevent coronavirus spread.

The recommendations will be posted on the state’s coronavirus website – coronavirus.ohio.gov – by Tuesday.

“While there are no mandates associated with this guidance, we believe that the recommendations we are issuing are essential to the health of Ohio’s youth and the success of the coming school year,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, medical director at the Ohio Department of Health.

“We’re at a point in this pandemic where information is out there. We’re going to continue to put information out there, but we’re at a point where these decisions must be left to a local community, they must be left to parents,” said Gov. Mike DeWine during a different news conference Monday afternoon, when asked why the guidance will be recommendations and not mandates.

The guidance is the result of studying the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations, as well as those from the American Academy of Pediatrics and input from experts, Vanderhoff said.

The coronavirus vaccine is available for children ages 12 and above. Eligible children are recommended to get shots and if they do, the guidance won’t recommend they wear masks.

The guidance includes that unvaccinated staff wear masks indoors, that heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems be regularly maintained, that schools encourage proper handwashing, and that children are kept three to six feet apart. State officials will encourage schools to have outdoor learning activities if possible.

Vanderhoff called it a layered approach to preventing the vaccine’s spread: The strongest layer of protection is the vaccine. For those who can’t get the vaccine, wearing masks is the next best way to prevent spread, along with the additional layers of sanitizing and cleaning spaces, improving ventilation, maximizing distance between people and good hand hygiene.

Nothing in the guidance will prevent schools from adding additional protections, Vanderhoff said. For instance, if a school is in a community with a low vaccination rate and high level of cases, it may require everyone to wear masks indoors or other measures.

Dr. Shefali Mahesh, associate chair of pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital – one of a handful of physicians who were at the virtual news conference to discuss the recommendations – said that five-day-a-week, in-person school attendance is important for kids’ learning and social and emotional development.

“When it comes to learning, one of the things you’re taught as a pediatrician is you’ve got to meet the child where they are,” she said. “So when we talk to children the skills they teach us is get down to the level of the child, meet them at eye level, sit next to them, put a comforting arm (around them) if they’re not understanding something or struggling with something. Those things are very difficult to do through a computer screen. As a pediatrician I look for nonverbal cues.”

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