MEDINA, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine has a plea to school district leaders: mask up in schools. It’s something Hannah Magrum has wanted since the pandemic began.
“With my 7-year-old being medically complex, it was really the only safe way we could get them into the building,” she said.
Magrum has three children in Medina City Schools. Her 7-year-old, Corbin, has been diagnosed with 25 medical conditions and is more at risk of a severe COVID-19 reaction.
“Corbin has two rare chromosome disorders that caused a cascade of other issues,” she said. “There are definitely concerns that if he were to get COVID, it could more negatively impact him versus a similar peer without any sort of medical diagnoses.”
Medina’s mask policy is optional, but if any school building hits a certain absentee rate, masks are mandatory for two weeks until the cases are under control. There are currently 68 active student cases and three buildings under a mask mandate.
“I felt like it was a little bit like trying to put out a house fire with a garden hose,” she said.
But other parents don’t feel the same. They have made their voices heard at Medina City Schools’ Board of Education meetings.
“COVID poses almost no risk to our children, their survival rate is 99.99%. You know that. But here’s the big one, there have been no cases, zero cases of student-to-teacher transmission,” said a parent to board members during a Sept. 7 meeting. “Do you know what it’s called when you force a medical device, that you explain as a mask, on our child’s face for fear of a virus that causes you and a child no harm? It’s called child abuse.”
Magrum said listening to the anti-mask parents at the meeting made her emotional.
“When other parents throw out the stats for, well, you know 98% or 99% of kids are just going to be fine, and I always think like, but what about my kid? Does he not matter? Is he not worthy?” asked Magrum.
She said she knows other parents would ask, why not just keep Corbin at home?
“He also receives a lot of services through an IEP, an individualized education plan, and those are not services that you can effectively do online. How do you do occupational therapy virtually? It's not easy to do that and he needs a lot of one on one support,” she said.
Magrum is advocating for her son and speaking up, but not during the public comment at a school board meeting. She has started an online petition asking the school board to impose a mask mandate.
In just over two days, more than 650 people have signed the petition.
“We wanted it to be a common voice and we wanted it to be something that they couldn't ignore,” she said. “We’re just all working on basically the common thread that we want kids in school and we want our kids in school safely.”
Dr. Claudia Hoyen, the director of infection control for University Hospitals’ Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, said it is also the goal for UH is to keep kids inside the classroom and outside of a hospital.
“The number of children we've seen in our emergency room has, absolutely, skyrocketed in the last two weeks,” she said.
Hoyen said health experts are studying if the delta variant is making kids sicker, but she suspects it is just far more contagious, which is why the number of cases in kids is increasing.
“We think, probably, at this time, that it's just the sheer number of children coming down with COVID, as opposed to the numbers that were coming down in the late spring and early summer, are just so overwhelming that now we're starting to see many more children in the hospital,” she said.
She said, at this point, the hospital is not overwhelmed, but worries if masking is not implemented at all schools, it could be coming.
“I think the adult hospitals are feeling this much more acutely than pediatric hospitals, but we are certainly following suit,” she said.