COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide order that will reflect the recommendation by doctors that all children from Kindergarten to 12th grade wear a mask at school.
That recommendation was made Tuesday in a joint letter sent by the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DeWine said.
The recommendation comes with the following exemptions:
- Children under 2 years old
- Any child unable to remove the face covering without assistance
- A child with “significant behavioral/psychological undergoing treatment that is exacerbated specifically by the use of a facial covering,” for example, severe anxiety or a tactile aversion.
- A child “living with severe autism or with extreme development delay who may become agitated or anxious wearing a mask.”
- A child “with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction.”
The recommendation notes that asthma, allergies and sinus infections do not warrant exceptions from wearing a mask.
DeWine said that this recommendation will be made policy in an order from the Ohio Department of Health.
“This gives us the best shot that we can, along with the other things that schools are doing, which is keeping the distance separation, working on that, and added to that, the other things that they’re doing in regard to sanitation gives us the best shot that we have, frankly, to be able to have children in school,” DeWine said.
Kathleen Mack, Brecksville-Broadview Heights School Board President, says their hybrid back to school plan already notes a mask requirement for first through 12th-grade students, but now it includes kindergartners.
"We want to keep our kids safe. We want to keep our teachers safe and we think that that’s definitely was one way to do that," said Mack.
But the added responsibility teachers will face when making sure kids keep their masks on in class is what worries Mack, especially when it comes to younger students.
"That’s difficult that’s going to be the challenge," said Mack explained. "Although it will be challenging with the little ones, kids are pretty adaptable and our teachers are pretty amazing so I think that we should be able to pull it off."
The school district is considering making decorative shields for students as a mask replacement using its robotics technology to help students feel comfortable, but Mack says more last-minute changes from the state could create more challenges for their schools and parents.
"We are around $400,000 that we’re investing in ways to keep our place safe," Mack said. "Our parents want to start planning you know for what their future looks like as well whether it be online or in person. They need to know what our plan is before some of them can make that decision."
Dr. Amy Edwards, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialists with University Hospitals, says parents are going to be a big part of getting kids comfortable wearing masks or shields.
"It’s a parents responsibility to get their kids ready for school and this year that includes masking," said Edwards. "Start it at home. Normalize mask-wearing at home."