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Students In Ohio's K-12 Schools Must Wear Masks

Gov. Mike DeWine holds up a face mask at a press conference April 6, 2020. [Office of Gov.  Mike DeWine]
Gov. Mike DeWine holds up a face mask at a press conference April 6, 2020. [Office of Gov. Mike DeWine]

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday added another statewide health order requiring all children in grades K-12 to wear masks while in school, with certain exceptions.

The previous order was for third graders and older.  DeWine said the aim is providing safe schools for students and employees when schools return to in-person classes.

“We are limited in the ways that we can protect people of the state of Ohio, protect our kids, protect the adults," he said. "The other way is not to go back to school at all, and some schools are making that choice.”

Many Northeast Ohio school districts are opting for remote learning to at least start the 2020-21 academic year, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Akron public schools and  Parma City Schools.

The state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute 2 million masks to schools in Ohio, according to DeWine. As local officials in June were working out the logistics for a potential return to the classroom, early estimates indicated Akron schools' roughly 20,000 students would require 204,000 masks per week be made available.

The state also has a new list of Ohio’s 88 counties, ranked by virus spread per 100,000 people in the last two weeks. Mercer and Lucas counties topped the list Tuesday. No Northeast Ohio counties ranked in the top 10. DeWine is hoping the ranking system is another tool for school districts to use to determine how they should proceed with instruction.


Daily New Confirmed & Probable COVID-19 Cases In Ohio

No statewide decision has been made on high school contact sports, with DeWine saying officials want to get closer to the date of competitions before making a ruling.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said many options are being considered with the Ohio High School Athletic Association regarding fall sports. Non-contact sports, such as cross-country, are already allowed to have competitions.

Husted added there are ongoing talks with the NFL’s Browns and Bengals about potentially allowing fans in to stadiums, but final plans have not been reviewed.

DeWine began his coronavirus press conference with a remembrance of the Dayton shooting, in which nine people were killed on Aug. 4, 2019, asking for a moment silence.

Ohio’s Warrant Task Force led to a 903 percent increase in Ohio arrest warrants entered into the national warrant database since March 2019, the governor said. But, DeWine said, Ohio’s gun laws are the same as they were one year ago. He called on the legislature to enact his STRONG Ohio gun violence legislation.

DeWine said doing nothing about gun violence is simply not an option.

The governor added that former state health department director Dr. Amy Acton, who resigned in June and has since been acting as an advisor to the DeWine administration, is preparing to testify in lawsuits filed against her. Acton is leaving state employment entirely and returning to the Columbus Foundation to run Kind Columbus, which the non-profit said is “dedicated to spreading the words and actions of kindness as a defining value for our region.”

“It saddens me for her to be leaving our office," the govenor said Tuesday. "She has assured me though, that she's just a phone call away.”

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.