CINCINNATI — Two big groups are coming out in support of masks in schools this fall: The Ohio Education Association (OEA) and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Both are echoing new recommendations from Ohio health officials and the Centers for Disease Control as the delta variant hikes COVID-19 case numbers across the Tri-State.
The recommendation applies to all school-aged students, vaccinated or not. Many districts are working on back-to-school plans now and trying to juggle changing recommendations.
OEA president Scott DiMauro urged school leaders to follow science while deciding their approach to the new school year.
“Our members’ primary concern is for the health and safety of their students and the potential danger the fast-spreading delta variant could pose for their communities and families,” DiMauro said. “We know that mask wearing has been scientifically proven to be effective in slowing the spread of COVID infections and should remain a key tool for avoiding further, unnecessary learning disruptions.”
Dr. Patty Manning, Cincinnati Children's chief of staff, said the recommendation gives parents a chance to plan for the school year.
“I do think, as school starts to get closer, it helps families to plan,” Manning said. “To have something they know they can control, such as what types of masks they're going to buy and how they're going to talk to their children. So, I hope that our coming out with this statement will help school districts and their leaders move in the direction of coming to some decisions around what they're going to recommend.”
But many districts in the Tri-State have said masks will be optional or encouraged instead of required once students return. That includes the Diocese of Covington and Mason City Schools. Both districts said that could change if local rules change.
As of Tuesday, the Hamilton County Public Health Department said nearly 120 people were hospitalized due to the virus. Two weeks ago that number was closer to 40 on any given day. For the first time in nearly two months, Ohio reported more than 1,000 new COVID cases on Tuesday. It also reported 127 new hospitalizations -- nearly three times its 21-day average.
Children under the age of 12 are not able to receive the vaccine, but researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital are underway with phase-two testing of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to determine the efficacy of the vaccine in children younger than 12. That trial is estimated to last through the end of this year.
Manning said Cincinnati Children’s has not seen a surge in COVID cases involving children, but that there has been a slight uptick. The surge, according to Manning, is found in children experiencing respiratory disease. She said this is abnormal for this time of year.
“We’re seeing a fairly significant uptick … of just general respiratory diseases that we would typically only see in the early months of the year in winter time,” Manning said. “They are very prominent right now. We’re seeing a very significant number of children coming into our emergency rooms, our urgent cares -- I know our primary care pediatricians are seeing this as well -- of general respiratory disease.”