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DeWine: Pandemic strikes children hard

Gov. Mike DeWine said the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting school-age children particularly hard and urged school officials to require face masks but won’t mandate it himself even though he wants to do it.

“If I could put on a statewide mandate, if the health department could do it, we would do it,” he said Tuesday. “What the Legislature has made very clear is if we put on a statewide mandate, they’d take it off” and would do it “right away.”

DeWine, a Republican, said if he imposed it as a protest and the Republican-led state Legislature removed it, this would cause “confusion” and “turmoil”about a statewide mandate being lifted.

“If there’s a change of opinion in the Legislature, I’m happy to put this order on,” DeWine said.

DeWine said that 54.4 percent of public school students in the state are required to wear masks.

State Rep. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, has introduced legislation to prohibit schools in the state from mandating that students wear masks. A similar proposal is in the state Senate.

Loychik was escorted out of a Lakeview Board of Education meeting in Cortland on Monday night for refusing to wear a mask.

While the state hasn’t seen COVID-19 cases this high since January, DeWine said the virus is impacting school-age children at a rate greater than others.

Officials with the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association joined DeWine at Tuesday’s news conference and made a direct appeal asking all schools in the state to require masks for students and staff.

“The best way to keep schools open and kids out of quarantine is for those 12 and older to get vaccinated,” he said. “But because those under 12 are too young to be vaccinated, we need all students who come to school to wear a mask until we get through this.”

Nick Lashutka, the association’s president and CEO, said: “Our No. 1 priority is to keep children in school in-person five days a week,” and to do that means masks.

During the past week, K-12 students have seen a 44 percent increase in COVID-19 cases compared with a 17 percent increase overall in the state, he said.

Also, during the two weeks ending Sept. 4, the cases per 100,000 for students is 909 compared with 561 for the rest of the state’s population, DeWine said.

The 16 highest number of cases per day through the entire pandemic for children between 5 and 17 in the state have been in the last 19 days, he said.

“The data is now clear that there is a higher level of COVID in school districts where masks are not required,” he said.

Struthers became the latest school district in the Mahoning Valley to adopt a mask mandate. Starting today, masks are required for all students, parents and staff in the Struthers school buildings, regardless of whether a person is vaccinated, during the school day. The use of masks at indoor extracurricular events is “highly recommended,” but not mandatory, according to a statement on the district’s website.

The decision was made “due to the increase of positive COVID-19 cases and number of quarantines within our buildings,” according to the statement.

The number of cases has significantly increased in the state since late July largely caused by the delta variant among the unvaccinated, which spreads quickly, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director.

COVID-19 DATA

The 7,325 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday is up from the daily average of 5,888 for the past 21 days, according to the ODH.

The state has exceeded 5,500 daily cases in 12 of the past 15 days, according to ODH data.

Tuesday’s total includes 406 cases in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties combined.

Two months ago, all of Ohio was averaging about 260 cases a day.

The state had a total of 1,311,518 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday with 1,174,231 presumed recovered and 21,265 deaths.

The ODH usually provides death information on Tuesdays and Fridays.

There were 111 additional COVID-19 deaths since Friday including six in Trumbull and two each in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.

Also, there were 203 people in Ohio hospitals during the first week of July with COVID-19, DeWine said. That number Tuesday was 3,494 — a 1,600 percent increase.

“Hospitals are filling up,” DeWine said.

Mahoning County had 25,848 total COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday with 23,293 presumed recovered and 629 deaths.

Trumbull County had 19,093 total COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday with 17,263 presumed recovered and 506 deaths.

Columbiana County had 11,032 total COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday with 9,723 presumed recovered and 239 deaths.

VACCINATIONS

There were 6,191,032 people, 52.96 percent of the state’s population, who had at least started getting inoculated as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, including 9,185 in the previous 24 hours, according to the ODH.

In Mahoning County, 51.14 percent of the population (116,955 people) had received at least one dose with 48.9 percent of the population in Trumbull County (96,816 people) and 41.53 percent in Columbiana County (42,308 people) as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to the ODH.

There were 5,725,375 people, 48.98 percent of the state’s population,who finished the vaccinations as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, including 7,219 in the prior 24 hours.

In Mahoning County, 47.34 percent of the population (108,264 people) had completed the process and 44.98 percent of the population in Trumbull (89,045 people) and 38.54 percent of the population in Columbiana (39,261 people) had as of 6 a.m. Tuesday.

COVID-19 by the numbers

The number of cases, changes in cases and deaths in counties in the region and statewide as of Tuesday:

County Cases Change since Change since Deaths

yesterday last week

Trumbull 19,093 +151 +658 506

Mahoning 25,848 +160 +903 629

Columbiana 11,032 +95 +533 239

Ohio 1,311,518 +7,325 +49,500 21,265

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health

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