COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Schools will require students to wear masks in the fall, the district announced Thursday.
The decision follows a new recommendation Tuesday from the nation’s leading pediatricians association, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which said that all students should wear masks this upcoming school year.
“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide an extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon said in a statement Thursday.
Columbus joins Cleveland in requiring masks. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced Monday it will require students, staff and visitors to wear masks for at least the first five weeks of school this fall, CEO Eric Gordon announced Monday.
The Ohio Department of Health said Wednesday it is reviewing the AAP guidance. The department will provide schools with recommendations as far as masking for the upcoming school year in the near future, officials said.
Schools in Ohio will not be required by the state to go one way or the other on masks, Ohio Department of Health officials said.
The COVID-19 virus is increasingly impacting youth in Ohio. From May to June, 20% of cases were among people under 20 and the age group represented 5% of hospitalizations, significant increases from previous periods of the pandemic, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the spread of the more contagious delta variant makes masking the right move for the city’s schools.
“The pandemic is not over and case numbers are rising again because of the delta variant and low vaccination rates in our community,” Roberts said in the statement. “Kids need to be in the classroom where they can learn and thrive, and masks are an important tool for protecting staff and students who are too young to get vaccinated.”