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Stay the course despite changing virus guidelines

Just as Ohio’s Department of Health last week was announcing its plans to waive mask requirements inside Ohio’s schools this fall, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was back peddling Tuesday on its masking guidelines, now considering new recommendations that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, a federal official said.

This new CDC guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases per day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.

Now the CDC is advising students should maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between themselves in classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.

With constantly changing advisories, it’s no wonder Ohioans and Americans are confused.

Frankly, it seems the only consistent recommendation by scientists and health officials since the COVID-19 vaccine was released has been the urging for people to get the shot. In speaking about the return to classes next month, Ohio Department of Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff last week urged school employees and eligible students age 12 and older to get vaccinated. That is the best protection, Vanderhoff said.

Health officials also are recommending schools continue additional measures that have proven helpful, such as keeping extra distance between people indoors, improving ventilation, sanitizing and encouraging good hand-washing.

Still, several Mahoning Valley school officials have told our education reporter that they will remain flexible on whether to force students to wear face masks and shields when school reopens in the fall.

At the end of the day, we all want to move past this scourge and return to normalcy. We all want to shed the masks permanently and for worries about contracting or spreading the disease to come to a complete end. If we have to don the masks again, it will be a shame.

But frankly, what would be worse is another drastic downturn in our economy due to a resurgency of the disease.

So, let’s follow the guidance offered. If you plan to be inoculated but haven’t yet done it, now is the time. If you choose not to be inoculated, then, please, mask up and engage in caution and social distancing.

We must beat this disease before it, once again, beats our economy.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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