(WKBN) – Local public health departments gave their recommendation for universal mask-wearing in K-12 schools as the school year draws closer.
On Friday, Mahoning County Public Health, the Youngstown City Health District, the Columbiana County Health District, the Trumbull County Combined Health District and the Warren City Health District said they support full in-person learning.
However, in order to keep students safe in the classroom and minimize the spread of COVID-19, the departments also strongly recommend schools follow CDC guidance and adopt universal masking policies.
This includes students, teachers and staff regardless of their vaccination status.
The health departments also urge parents to send their children to school properly wearing a mask — covering the nose and mouth. They say this will prevent children from disruptions from in-person classes or sports when a positive COVID-19 case occurs.
“Our fight against COVID-19 is not over. COVID-19 variants have emerged that increase the risk of transmission and result in worsening illness,” said the health departments in a press release. “The Delta variant is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in Ohio. Because the Delta variant spreads so quickly, these strategies to reduce transmission in schools are critically important to protect students, teachers, staff and communities.”
The health departments also want to remind the public of the effectiveness of masks. They reduce transmission of the virus and protect those not vaccinated.
This is especially important because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and in the state of Ohio, only half of the population is vaccinated.
Schools should continue to implement hand-washing and sanitizing tools and areas, the health departments said. They also recommended layers of protection, including good ventilation and maintaining at least three feet of social distance between students.
The local public health departments continue to urge those who have not been vaccinated to get the shot.
Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. To find a location to get the vaccine, visit Ohio’s coronavirus website or contact a local public health department.
Due to the limitations Senate Bill 22 has placed on local public health, the health departments cannot order masks to be worn, but they are giving data-driven and science-based recommendations and they follow CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations.
The final decision regarding masking is made by the governing body of each district.
The local health departments will continue to work closely with their local schools to monitor the situation and provide updated recommendations as appropriate.