By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine issued a health order Tuesday requiring masks for children returning to in-person classes this fall. The governor pleaded with concerned parents and educators across the state to abide by the state’s health orders as K-12 schools begin to open.
During his briefing Tuesday, DeWine said the mask order for students “gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school.”
New cases in Ohio remain high, with 1,143 reported Tuesday, up from over 900 on Monday, marking a 21-day daily case average of 1,291.
“We all are trying to bring certainty to something we quite candidly cannot bring certainty to,” DeWine said. “We cannot know what the next 3 weeks will bring let alone for the next 3 months or 6 months or 9 months of school.”
DeWine believes, similarly to the statewide mask orders, there needs to be a localized approach to the reopening of schools, as each district “faces a new reality.”
Health officials believe community spread in individual school districts will dictate the outbreaks their schools will face.
The state plans to deliver 2 million masks given by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to regional education service centers, which will distribute to schools across the state, DeWine said.
MULTI-STATE TESTING AGREEMENT
DeWine also announced Ohio will be joining five other states “to work together” in a bipartisan, interstate compact to expand rapid detection testing as nationwide testing shortages and delays continue.
The first-of-its-kind agreement with Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia was announced Tuesday as each state is trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The agreement between the states is an effort to demonstrate to private manufacturers the need for scaling up production of rapid point-of-care antigen testing, which are simpler, faster and less expensive than the current testing model, DeWine said. “Time is of the essence,” the governor noted about the demand for faster testing in Ohio as the number of daily cases have been pushing 1,000 for weeks.
The agreement was made in a compact with the Rockefeller Foundation, which plans to facilitate financing mechanisms that can support such a testing system.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local +newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.