COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Some school districts across central Ohio are making changes to their masks policies as the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers decline from the omicron surge.
But is relaxing masking a good idea?
Doctors said masking should still be taking place, saying they’re looking at what the CDC and local health departments are recommending to the community as a whole.
“We are going to remove the mask requirement and adjust to mask strongly advised and encouraged across the district,” said Westerville City Schools Superintendent John Kellogg said during a school board meeting Monday night.
He explained the district is seeing improvements when it comes to COVID cases and will making masking optional starting Feb. 22.
Hilliard City Schools is lifting its requirement Feb. 16, and Canal Winchester Schools started the optional approach Tuesday.
Dr. Mark Herbert with Mount Carmel Health said mitigation measures are still important.
“We’re still in a time of extremely high transmission, so we should all be continuing to follow all of the public health guidelines,” he said.
What matters right now regarding masking is the transmission rate in Ohio, Herbert said. According to the CDC, all of Ohio is in either high or substantial transmission.
“We are four times what would be considered high transmission, so the CDC would recommend that all persons ages 2 and over should be masking indoors regardless of vaccination status,” he said, adding the state’s case rate is more than 400 per 100,000 people.
Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency physician with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said it’s important to discuss any changes as a family.
“There’s no question it’s difficult, especially for kids,” he said. “You know some of their classmates aren’t going to wear masks and I would just say your kids are your treasure and we want to do everything we can as parents to protect them and right now, that means still wearing masks, as difficult as that may be.”
“We want to give time to our families to absorb the news, to have conversations at home about their children, what they want them to do, and for us to get our communication out and make preparations for that change,” Kellog said at Monday’s meeting.
Doctors are urging people to continue to follow the mitigation measures. They’ve also pointed out the fact that the city of Columbus still has its own public mask order in effect.