COLUMBUS, Ohio — In just a handful of days, school districts will begin the second half of the 2021-2022 school year. While some districts, like Cleveland Metropolitan School District, have decided to go remote, others will be in the classroom.
And for those who are, the Ohio Hospital Association, which represents about 245 hospitals across the state, has a plea for district leaders as cases of the virus reach record-breaking levels for the state of Ohio.
"It's time to care, and it's time to really appreciate what hospitals are going through right now and what we're trying to do to turn the tide on this pandemic," said John Palmer, the director of public affairs for the association.
On Wednesday the association sent a letter to Ohio school officials asking them to implement a mask policy - if they don't have one at this time. The letter was signed by the presidents and CEOs of major hospitals in Northeast Ohio, including UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Akron Children’s Hospital and the Chief of Medical Operations for the Cleveland Clinic.
"We want learning environments to continue, but at the same time, we do want them to be safe. And that's why it's such a critical time right now because there are so many other health care needs out there right now beyond COVID," Palmer said.
Palmer said the plea comes as nearly every hospital in the state reports high capacity levels, much of which are COVID-19 patients.
"Right now there's hospitals and communities that are really struggling, that really won't have — if these hospitalizations continue — won't have the ability to provide really any type of other care that is really needed in communities," he said.
Governor Mike DeWine said during his Wednesday afternoon press conference that he has no plans of introducing a statewide mask mandate. But advised school districts to bring masks requirements back.
"I would urge everyone to think about kids going back to school on Monday, parents, have your child wear a mask. I know that people don't want to do that, but that is the safest thing," he said. " And for school superintendents and school boards, school administrators, please consider putting the mask mandate on if you don't already have it on. At least for a few weeks while we are at this great, great, great surge."
This fall many schools did have mask mandates in place to begin the school year. Though they were dropped weeks later due to a drop in cases.