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DeWine orders kids into masks

Few exceptions as students in K-12 told to cover up in school

Students going back to school in Ohio will have to wear face masks, with minimal exemptions, to help control the number of COVID-19 cases.

“This gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

An order will be signed shortly, he said.

DeWine acknowledged the announcement “may be controversial,” but it is needed.

This decision was made, DeWine said, with the assistance of the Ohio Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association.

Regarding enforcement, DeWine said: “No police are going to come around,” but wearing masks is important to slow the spread.

DeWine said he had no plans to issue an order closing schools.

The two organizations wrote DeWine a letter stating: “Beyond these categories, there are no diagnoses that warrant blanket exemptions from wearing a face covering / mask. Specifically, asthma, allergies and sinus infections are not a contraindication for using a face covering / mask.”

“Schools and parents continue to work to make decisions on how to safely go back to school,” DeWine said. “I know there is frustration by the uncertainty. We cannot know what the next three weeks will bring, let alone the next three months, six months or nine months of school.”

The exemptions for children in kindergarten through grade 12 are:

– Those not able to remove face masks without assistance,

– Those with significant behavioral or psychological issues undergoing treatment that are exacerbated specifically by the use of a face mask such as severe autism or tactile aversion,

– Those with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay who may become agitated or anxious wearing a mask, and

– Those with facial deformities that cause airway obstructions.

Also exempt are children under the age of 2 with DeWine saying that won’t matter because those that age don’t attend K-12.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will assist the state with distributing 2 million masks to schools for use by students and staff, DeWine said.

DeWine released a ranking Tuesday of Ohio’s 88 counties in terms of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents between July 21 and Monday to show what the spread has been like over the past two weeks.

Among area counties, Columbiana was 32nd at 80.8, Mahoning was 37th at 69.7, Trumbull was 48th at 57, Ashtabula was 62nd at 42.8 and Geauga was 69th at 36.2.

The governor also announced that Dr. Amy Acton, who was the head of the Ohio Department of Health before resigning in June and becoming DeWine’s chief health adviser, has resigned that position to return to the Columbus Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization.

“While it saddens me that she will be leaving my office, she has assured me that she is just a phone call away and will be available to continue advising us as we move through this pandemic,” DeWine said.

COVID DATA

DeWine made the announcement on the same day that the number of reported COVID-19 cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time since Friday.

There were 1,143 new cases reported Tuesday.

Overall, the state has posted 95,106 cases since the start of the pandemic with 71,338 presumed recovered and 3,570 deaths. There were 1,038 people in hospitals with the virus on Tuesday.

There were 31 COVID-19 deaths reported Tuesday, including two in Trumbull County.

Trumbull reported 1,451 total cases Tuesday with 1,113 presumed recovered and 105 deaths.

Mahoning County listed 2,437 total cases Tuesday with 1,860 presumed recovered and 253 deaths.

Columbiana County had 1,583 total cases Tuesday with 1,386 presumed recovered and 60 deaths.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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