DeWine announces guidelines for schools including mask policy

Updated: Jul. 2, 2020 at 4:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday the Ohio Department of Education’s five guidelines for K-12 schools to follow as they return to classes in the fall.

The newly issued guidance advises schools to:

  • Vigilantly assess symptoms;
  • Wash and sanitize hands to prevent spread;
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize the school environment to limit spread on shared surface;
  • Practice social distancing; and
  • Implement a face coverings policy.

“Just as we have done in the business sector with employees, we are requiring school staff to wear face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus, unless it is unsafe or when doing so could significantly interfere with the learning process. When face coverings aren’t practical, face shields may be considered,” DeWine said. “We strongly recommend that students in 3rd grade and up wear face coverings as well.”

DeWine explained he will work with the Ohio General Assembly to make sure money from the CARES Act will be distributed to Ohio’s schools.

The state’s “Reset and Restart Planning Guide” can be found here.

The guidelines are intentionally just that, as DeWine acknowledged Ohio’s “long history of local control” and that “school administrators and teachers know their schools best.”

But the Ohio Education Association, which represents 122,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals across the state, is looking for more direct leadership from Columbus.

“OEA understands and respects the long-standing adherence to local control in decision-making around public education, but the state also has a critical role to play amidst an unprecedented public health crisis and a rising number of cases of COVID-19,” OEA President Scott DiMauro said.

“While we appreciate the consideration given to the importance of social distancing, health checks, and sanitation protocols in the Governor’s plan, it lacks a means of enforcement, even when a county is in the highest tier of the alert system.”

Related story | New county-level COVID alert system unveiled, here’s how it works

Gov. DeWine says since the middle of June, Ohio has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. The Ohio Department of Health reports that there are 52,865 total positive cases and 2,876 deaths as of Thursday.

According to data reports, Gov. DeWine announced that the virus is spreading through:

  • Large family gatherings
  • Funerals
  • Protests
  • Workplace
  • Bars/restaurants
  • Tourist destinations
  • Not staying at home
  • Not wearing masks

Health officials say 7,911 are hospitalized. Of the ones hospitalized, 2,008 are in ICUs.

In Hamilton County, 5,224 patients have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of those who died from the virus is 298.

The average age of people infected in March was 51. So far in June, that number has decreased to 46.

There has also been a shift in younger people driving an increase in cases, DeWine said.

“We have increased testing, but we do not believe this increase in cases is completely due to testing,” he said.

DeWine said if the spread of the virus remained low, more testing should show a lower positivity.

“Instead, the creeping up of our positivity rate even as we are doing more testing means that we are likely picking up signs of broader community spread,” he said.

DeWine said the number of daily cases has increased since June 17. On June 17, the number of daily cases was at 412. Now it is at 1,076.

DeWine added there are many more COVID-19 pop-up testing locations coming to the state. You can also find a list of testing and community health centers statewide here.

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