‘Every single county is red hot,’ DeWine, Children’s Hospital leaders plea for masks in schools

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and area Children’s Hospital leaders discussed keeping children in school as the state sees rising cases of COVID-19, including whether schools should mandate masks, during a Tuesday news conference.

>> What you need to know: COVID-19 in Ohio

>> Whaley: DeWine should order mask mandate in schools

DeWine said he doesn’t see a way around the state legislature’s law that allowed them to override state health orders like a mask mandate.

“We don’t think we have any avenue around this,” DeWine said. “We don’t think that there is any effective way to do a statewide order that will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”

The following announcements were made:

  • Gov. DeWine said 54.4 percent of public schools in Ohio are requiring masks of today. The Ohio Children’s Hospital Association asked superintendents across the state to require masks at school. “Nobody wants to have masks in schools. I think people are realizing that when we look at the facts, it’s the only way we’re going to keep our kids in school,” DeWine said.
  • DeWine said that in the first week of July, Ohio reported 28 COVID-19 deaths and the last week of August there were 147 COVID-19 deaths.
  • DeWine said every county is above the CDC’s guidelines for high occurrence of COVID-19 with many counties well above that. “Every single county is red hot. Some are boiling over,” DeWine said.
  • DeWine said school-age children currently sit at 909 cases per 100,000 students. He said its clear that the data shows COVID-19 is the worst in schools that do not require masks.
  • Dayton Children’s Hospital CEO Debbie Feldman said Dayton Children’s has been at “red-bed’ status 55 percent of the time since mid-August, and recently only had two beds available for children.
  • Feldman said demand for services at Dayton Children’s area “staggering” and in recent days 40 families left Dayton Children’s without being seen due to the demand for services. “It’s something that weighs very heavily on us,” Feldman said. “This demand is absolutely creating unsustainable pressure on our staff.”
  • Feldman said the rise in need for services coincides with schools opening unmasked and also comes as the hospital is seeing near-winter levels of RSV and other respiratory diseases.
  • DeWine said when he vetoed the bill that gave the legislature the power to override health orders like a mask mandate, which he said he’d issue if the legislature changed its mind on a mandate. “I vetoed the bill that gave the legislature the power,” DeWine said. “If there is a change of opinion in the legislature I’ll put the order on.”
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