COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that if he could mandate masks in Ohio’s schools, he would.
But he believes that a bill passed into law earlier this year over his veto effectively prevents him from doing so.
“If I could put on a statewide mandate, if the health department could do it, we would do it,” DeWine said Tuesday during a news briefing with state health leaders. “What the legislature has made very clear is that if we put on a statewide mandate that they will take it off. They have the ability to do that. There is no 30-day waiting period They can do it right away, and the legislature has made very clear that if we put on a mandate for kids in school to wear masks that they will take it off.”
The governor added that even if a state-issued mask mandate was in effect for a few days while the legislature worked to overturn it, it would only cause confusion.
“The problem with that is, we’re going to cause, if that happens, we would cause, seems to me, a lot of confusion and we might go backward,” he said.
DeWine added he’s counting on the goodwill of school boards to make the right decisions regarding their districts and masks.
The bill effectively caps the length of orders from state and local health departments at 30 days without approval from the General Assembly. Recently, some Ohio cities have bypassed their health departments by passing ordinances mandating masks in public, including Columbus.
Despite the case numbers and testimonials from the medical experts, DeWine said his hands were tied as far as being able to do anything beyond recommendations and offering what he called “direct appeals” from health experts.
“One of the things that people who don’t want masks, people who are sometimes skeptical about the data, one thing that they have said is, ‘Well, when hospitals fill up, I know that’s a problem and we will act,’” DeWine said. “What you’re hearing today is hospitals are filling up.”
The briefing came after a virtual meeting between Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association and school districts from across the state Tuesday. DeWine and the doctors hope the information given out during the governor’s press conference can convince the school districts to make the call for masks on their own.
“We know how to keep our kids safe,” one hospital leader said on that call. “We know how to have a reduction in the number of children who need to seek services and we’re requesting your assistance.”