Ohio hospitals ask schools to keep or bring back mask mandates to help with soaring COVID numbers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The state hit a record for COVID hospitalizations yesterday, and medical professionals are now battling the fast-spreading omicron variant while still dealing with the delta variant.

So Ohio’s major hospital systems are asking school superintendents, administrators and board members to impose mask mandates for kids coming back to class next week.

Read the letter here.

The hospitals addressed the letter to those school officials rather than Gov. Mike DeWine, whose authority to impose health orders was limited by a state law passed this year that he vetoed and Republican lawmakers overrode.

“We don’t have the practical ability to really put on a statewide mask order at this point. I don’t think it’s appropriate at this point,” said DeWine at a press conference Wednesday.

DeWine said vaccines and voluntary mask wearing are tools to fight COVID. But he does support the hospitals’ in their request to school leaders.

“Very, very strong letter, very, very powerful letter, children’s hospitals saying please, please have a mask mandate on when kids start back to school,” DeWine said.

Kids under 5 aren’t eligible for the vaccine.

Ohio has seen a 125% jump in hospitalizations for kids under 17. And at that press conference Wednesday, Dr. Robert Wylie, the chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic, announced that the state has the highest overall hospitalization rate adjusted for population of any state in the country.

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