Health departments watching schools closely for COVID cases

State and local health departments will be monitoring schools closely as students return to the classroom. With many districts not requiring masks for students and staff, the chances are greater for more spread of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health. In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Vanderhoff pointed to what happened in a Florida school district that opened without mandatory masking.

“They started schools with masks as an option. Just one week later reported more than a thousand staff and students in quarantine, with an additional 470 actual cases,” Vanderhoff said.

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Vanderhoff repeated a call for action that came from Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday for school districts to institute masking and for parents to make sure students are masked-up when they return to the classroom. It came, though, as many school districts had already begun their school year and set their COVID precautions weeks ago. At least two local school districts, Fairborn and Beavercreek, quickly modified their policies in the wake of DeWine’s renewed call for masking.

For all districts and especially for those that are not masking, health departments will be on the lookout for warning signs of an outbreak. Charles Patterson, Health Commissioner of Clark County, told WHIO-TV that his agency will be watching districts in the county closely for virus spread.  He fears there could be outbreaks with serious consequences for students and staff.

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“Unfortunately, that is our worst nightmare, that we begin school, and we see positive cases and then we actually see spread. That’s the difference between this year and last year. Last year we didn’t see spread. And unfortunately, without universal masking, there’s a possibility that we’re going to see spread this year. And when that happens, we’re going to have to try to put the genie back in the bottle, but it may be too late,” Patterson said.