CINCINNATI — A major Ohio hospital issued its own recommendations for school districts as they prepare to head back to school during the pandemic.
Cincinnati Children's Hospital said in a press release Wednesday that it's aligning with the guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and urging students to wear masks, regardless if they're vaccinated against COVID-19 or not.
The hospital also recommends teachers and staff to wear masks.
"While each school district must decide the best way to safeguard students, it’s important to note that masks are about 85% effective in preventing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19," the medical center wrote. "Vaccines can provide even greater protection, but the federal government’s ongoing review of data from clinical trials may mean that children 11 years old and younger won’t be eligible for vaccination until late this year or early next year."
The AAP, the leading pediatrician group in the U.S., recommended last week that all children older than 2, as well as all school staff, should wear face masks at school unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit their use. The organization said masks are the key to getting students back in school, which is important for socializing and overall physical and mental wellbeing.
"Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages, and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents," AAP wrote.
The Ohio Department of Health released its own guidance Monday, strongly recommending unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks and social distance at all times. ODH also recommended vaccinated individuals to wear masks in crowded spaces or where social distancing isn't achievable.
Several Ohio school districts, most notably the largest urban districts such as Cleveland Metropolitan and Columbus City Schools, are mandating masks for the upcoming school year. At the higher education level, Ohio State is requiring students and staff to report their vaccination status. Unvaccinated students will be tested weekly.
Students living on campus at Cleveland State University are also required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Many private schools in the state are mandating them as well, including Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan and the College of Wooster. Ohio Wesleyan is even offering 50 new, vaccinated students a $25,000 renewable grant in an effort to boost vaccination rates.
“Cincinnati Children’s also agrees with the AAP on the importance of in-person learning for all children. Beyond academic instruction, the school environment plays a fundamental role in the healthy development of children – including social interaction, nutrition, mental health, social services, and extracurricular activities,” Cincinnati Children's wrote.
The push comes as COVID-19 cases are starting to rise in Ohio and other states due to the delta variant, ODH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said at a Monday press conference.
“It simply takes less of this virus to spread from the mouth or the nose of an affected person to that of another non-affected person," Vanderhoff said.
The state confirmed 1,317 new cases between Monday and Tuesday, which is above the 21-day average of 537 cases. Hospitalizations also jumped with the state recording 127 in the last 24 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Tuesday, recommending 23 Ohio counties to mask up indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.