COLUMBUS – Children as young as kindergartners will be required to wear masks as they return to school this fall, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.
DeWine previously required teachers and staff to wear masks and recommended face coverings for students in third grade and beyond.
Now, DeWine’s administration is requiring masks or facial coverings for all students K-12.
There are exceptions for any child:
- younger than 2,
- unable to remove the mask without assistance,
- with health issues,
- with autism or developmental delays or
- with a facial deformity that could cause an airway obstruction.
Masks are a way to ensure more students can attend in-person classes this fall, DeWine said. As of Tuesday, the GOP governor said, he is not contemplating halting in-person classes – a move he made in in early March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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The change comes as school districts scramble to decide whether classes will be held in-person, online or some combination of the two. DeWine isn’t mandating what classes look like, leaving those decisions to local schools officials.
DeWine is offering data: a county-by-county color-coded map on COVID-19 spread and a new spreadsheet of cases per 100,000 residents for each county.
“Schools and parents continue to work to make decisions on how to safely go back to school. I know there is frustration by the uncertainty,” DeWine said. “This virus has a mind of its own so we have to be flexible.”
Still, he understands that getting a kindergarten student to wear a mask will be a challenge. He recommended holding activities outside when possible.
“I fully understand the challenges,” DeWine said. “Kids are kids.”
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