BEDFORD, Ohio — More than 26 months after COVID-19 began prompting safety precautions in Ohio, many pandemic health restrictions have been lifted. But as case numbers rise, at least one Northeast Ohio school district is once again rolling out extra protections.
On Monday, the Bedford City School District (BCSD) reinstated its mask requirements for all staff, students and visitors to any district buildings. BCSD said it was a decision made collaboratively by administrative leaders and the school board.
“You kind of let your guard down, so that’s what we were starting to do. And now that the masks are back on, we’re like, ‘Oh wait a second, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,’” said Rosalyn Wells, the mother of a BCSD third grade student.
She explained she had been asking her daughter to wear her mask at school until case numbers dropped significantly because she worried about passing the virus onto her nearly 4-year-old son.
“She was not happy. But I don’t mind it. They said the numbers are up and it’s highly transmissible,” Wells said. “My son isn’t vaccinated. And [we will do] whatever we can to keep my whole family safe, especially him since he is the most vulnerable.”
A dashboard on the district’s website shows 12 active COVID-19 cases affecting staff and students.
The CDC is currently reporting low transmission rates in Ohio’s 88 counties. But nationally, the seven-day new case average has jumped by 21% over the previous week.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health says the local positivity rate is not cause for alarm. But the fact that it’s risen by about 5% in recent weeks shows the virus is still here and contagious.
“We've been in favor of remaining masked and properly socially distanced just from a cautionary standpoint,” said Kevin Brennan, the communications director for the Board of Health. “The thing that we have concerns with still are people who are not vaccinated and the potential effects of that. When we look into that, one of the things that scare us is the impacts of long COVID.”
He explained the Board of Health doesn’t offer guidance to school districts as frequently as it had at the beginning of the pandemic because many districts now fully understand the recommendations, but he said wearing a mask at school is a good way to protect vulnerable individuals.
“We don’t want to be dramatic here, but at the same time we want to do what we can to take care of the tip of the population that aren’t as able to take care of themselves: very young children, very elderly people,” Brennan said.
Cleveland Public Health echoed the sentiment, telling News 5 its guidance has remained consistent about vaccinations, masks, and social distancing.
Wells said she supports BCSD’s decision to require masks and thinks she’ll feel more comfortable with the fluctuating COVID-19 case numbers when her son is eligible to be vaccinated against the virus.
“You’re kind of wary, even just going to the grocery store. You’re like, ‘Please don’t touch anything’ because you don’t want them to pick up something,” she said. “For me, I will definitely breathe easier knowing that he’s vaccinated.”
Bedford City School District says the mask requirements will stay in place until further notice. Classes wrap up on June 2.
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