Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced an order for children from kindergarten through 12th grade to wear face masks when returning to school.

The announcement comes after health officials from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the practice.

“This gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school,” DeWine said during an Aug. 4 press conference.

The state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute 2 million masks to schools for use by students and staff. The masks will be delivered to regional education service centers serving, which will help the distribution process to schools and families.

In previous school guidelines, teachers and staff were required to wear masks. Students in third grade an up were encouraged but not required to wear a mask.

The new order will require masks or facial covering for all students, with the following exceptions:

• Children under the age of 2

• Any child unable to remove the face covering without assistance

• A child with a significant behavioral/psychological issue undergoing treatment that is exacerbated specifically by the use of a facial covering

• A child living with severe autism or with extreme developmental delay

• A child with a facial deformity that causes airway obstruction

DeWine stressed the need to control community spread of the coronavirus as it will determine how school will return.

“We all can impact the school situation,” he said. “Our teachers, our administration have worked very hard to make it as safe as they can in the school. But it’s incumbent on us to make the sea we’re swimming in as safe as we can.”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said he is still working with the Ohio High School Athletic Association to finalize plans for fall sports.

He clarified that an order signed Aug. 1 requiring coronavirus tests and banning spectators for fall sports. He noted it was an extension of an earlier order that temporarily allowed the return to competition.

Husted said state officials are working with the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals on plans for return to play. While both teams are likely able to return to competition under the existing order, he said they are reviewing plans to safely accommodate fans.

Ohio is entering into a multi-state purchasing agreement with Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia to expand the use of rapid point-of-care tests.

DeWine said the agreement will help officials detect outbreaks sooner with a faster turnaround time, expand testing in congregate settings and make testing more accessible for the most high-risk communities.

If you have questions regarding COVID-19, call 833-4ASKODH (833-427-5634) or visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.

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