Hospitals Urge K-12 Mask Mandates as Facilities Fill; DeWine Blames GA for Lack of Statewide Order
six children’s hospitals and many of the state’s adult hospitals are
overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and that’s largely because roughly half of
Ohio’s school districts aren’t requiring masks, Gov. Mike DeWine and leaders
from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association (OCHA) said Tuesday.
data are now clear that there is a higher level of COVID-19 in school districts
where masks are not required,” DeWine said during a Zoom press conference. “If
we want our schools to stay open, the best way to do that is for those 12 and
over to get vaccinated. But because those under 12 are still too young to be
vaccinated, we need students who come in to school to wear a mask until we get
was joined by OCHA President and CEO Nick Lashutka, Dayton Children’s Hospital
President and CEO Debbie Feldman, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Chief of Staff
Dr. Patty Manning, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr.
Rustin Morse and ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital Chief Nursing
Officer Paula Grieb.
are being overrun -- in virtually all of our access points -- by sick children
since the resumption of school. Our primary care physicians, our urgent cares
and our emergency departments are inundated daily,” Grieb said.
had a very significant and very frightening event occur for us last night in
Lucas County. At 10:36 p.m. last night, all of our Lucas County emergency
departments went on EMS bypass. That includes Ebeid Children’s and all of our
adult hospitals,” Grieb continued. “What does that mean? That means that if a
rescue squad was called for a 9-1-1 call and needed to pick up a patient and
deliver them to a hospital, if that hospital is on bypass, that rescue squad is
not allowed to stop at that hospital. Every hospital in Lucas County was on EMS
bypass simultaneously last night. … It’s unprecedented for that to occur.”
then explained how emergency services are provided under a “code red alert.”
every EMS call comes in, they are dispatched one at a time throughout the
community to our individual emergency departments,” she said. “What does that
mean for our folks? That means that you don’t necessarily go to the emergency
department that’s closest to your home or most likely suited to take care of your
direct patient needs. It might mean that a three-year-old who is in need of an
emergency department that’s specifically for pediatrics is delivered to a
traditional ED because that’s who’s next in the queue. … That situation lasted
for us in Lucas County for over eight hours before we were able to alleviate
some of the volume issues in four of the local hospitals, including our very
own, to come off of bypass. Again, it’s unprecedented for us to have ever been
in that event, and is something that is very concerning for us as we strive to
care for the youngest and most precious of our resources.”
said leaders from OCHA met with school district superintendents across the
state on Tuesday, providing the following data showing why all schools should impose
mask mandates for all students and staff:
Since Aug. 15, there have been 29,823Ohio school-aged children aged five
to 17with confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19.
Cases among this age group increased 198 percent from the week of Aug. 15 to
the week ending Sept. 4.
As reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 cases among
children have increased 240 percent nationally since early July when the Delta
variant began to surge. During that same period in Ohio, there has been a2,000
percent increase in cases among Ohio children.
COVID-19 cases are increasing at nearly twice the rate among school-aged children
as compared to the rest of the population. This past week, Ohio saw a 44
percent increase among school-aged children and only a 17 percent increase
among the rest of the population.
Over the two-week period ending Sept. 4, there was an average of 909 cases per
100,000 school-aged Ohio children versus 561 cases per 100,000 people
comprising the rest of the population.
The 16 days with the highest number of cases per day throughout the entire
pandemic for kids aged five to 17 in Ohio have all been in the last 19 days.
This includes every day except the three days of the Labor Day weekend.
In Ohio school districts where masks are optional, among school-aged kids,
there are both higher case rates per 100,000at 945.7 and a greater
week-over-week increase in cases. School districts where masks are optional
have seen a 54 percent week-over-week increase compared to a 34 percent
increase in school districts where masks are either required for all or
required for some, usually K-8.
“This is a perfect storm, and it’s impacting kids like it hasn’t before. It’s a
combination driven by COVID-19 cases increasing -- primarily driven by the
Delta variant -- increasing respiratory illnesses, more mental health
challenges, and staffing challenges. Everyone can agree that our number one
goal is to keep children in schools five days a week, and that’s what we shared
with the state’s superintendents today,” Lashutka said.
“Our inpatient numbers are the highest they’ve been. Our ICUs are caring for
more patients than there’s ever been. More children are on ventilators than
there has ever been. There are more children than ever entering our emergency
departments and our urgent care centers. That impacts the care of all children,
not just those that are COVID-19 positive,” Manning said.
pointed to a study of seven school districts in the Greater Cincinnati area
that analyzed outcomes for schools with universal K-12 mask mandates and those
with mandates that only apply to K-6 school buildings.
were able to look at the difference between COVID-positive children -- not
quarantined children, but children testing positive for COVID. They were almost
twice as likely to test positive for COVID if they were partially masked,
versus a fully masked school district. We feel like that, as well as many other
examples that you’ve heard, is evidence for the efficacy and usefulness of
masks,” Manning said.
have two paths forward. One of those paths to end this pandemic is … why don’t
we just let everybody get sick? To some degree, that’s what we’re doing right
now, which is why we’re struggling. We could just let everybody get sick,
including children -- and for whatever reason, we put children out in front of
us, and let them get sick -- some of them will get very sick, and some of them
might die. They will overwhelm our health care systems and that will affect the
care of all children in Ohio. That’s one path forward,” Manning said. “The
other path forward is to use tools that are safe, effective and in many cases
they are benign. Wearing a mask is not dangerous to your health. These tools
minimize people getting sick, minimize children getting ill and having long
COVID, minimize the strain and burden on our health care system and allow kids
to stay in school. I choose that path. … Please do this small, small thing, and
allow children to be masked in schools throughout all grades, and please get
vaccinated. It means everything right now.”
why he hasn’t issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools, DeWine said he
would issue such an order if the General Assembly (GA) would allow it to stand.
I could put on a statewide mandate, if the health department could do it, we
would do it. What the Legislature has made very clear is that if we put on a
statewide mandate, they will take it off. They have the ability to do that.
There is no 30-day waiting period. They can do it right away, and the
Legislature has made very clear that if we put on a mandate for kids in school
to wear masks, that they will take it off,” DeWine said, referring to
provisions in SB22 (McColley-Johnson), which was enacted after the Legislature
overrode the governor’s veto. The governor can issue a new state of emergency
that would last at least 30 days, but any rules associated with the state of
emergency -- such as a mask mandate -- can be revoked by the General Assembly
immediately by concurrent resolution.
say, ‘Mike, why don’t you do that? It could be on for a couple days or whatever.’
The problem with that is … we would cause, it seems to me, a lot of confusion.
We might go backwards,” DeWine continued. “We are slightly over 50 percent of
our kids in public schools who are under a mask order by the school. We’ve made
some progress. We’ve come a long way from the days that school started. We need
to go further. I believe that we will go further.”
said he’s hopeful that members of the General Assembly will change their
opinions on the issue if the situation continues to deteriorate.
am happy to put this order on. I will take the responsibility for it. I did not
hesitate last year to take responsibility, and I’m not going to hesitate again.
But that’s not where we are today,” DeWine said. “There is new information. …
When we have talked about this for the last 18 months, people who don’t want
masks or sometimes are skeptical about the data -- one thing that they have
said is, ‘Well, when hospitals fill up, I know that’s a problem, and we will
act.’ What you’re hearing today is that hospitals are filling up. It’s a threat
not just to your child if that child has COVID. It’s a threat to your child if
that child is in an auto accident or has any other problem.”
told Hannah News that the administration could possibly implement a mask
mandate, wait for the Legislature to act, and then take them to court and
obtain a restraining order if they revoke it. However, he said he doubts that
is the best approach to increase the use of masks in schools.
don’t have the hesitancy -- you’ve watched me -- of doing that, but I have to
weigh the damage that would be done by that, and the turmoil that would be
created, and the fact that it’s very likely that we will roll backwards,”
whether the General Assembly is responsible for the number of children
currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, DeWine said, “I am an
optimistic person. … It was interesting today that on the call, there were
questions or comments about whether or not this information has been shared
with the state Legislature. We were encouraged to share that information, and
that was the attitude of some of the superintendents and school officials on
the call. Look, we’re going to continue to do that.”
said his organization will continue to contact members of the General Assembly
to discuss the issue.
of our children’s hospitals are in regular communication with the 132 members
of the Ohio General Assembly, in both the House and Senate. As we speak, we are
reaching back out to them as these data that you’ve heard today and last week
continue to evolve, so that they’re not only hearing firsthand the information
that we’re sharing with you, but importantly have the opportunity to ask
questions of our clinical leaders. What we’re finding is there’s just a
tremendous amount of misinformation out there in the public, and I think as we
have these conversations … we are finding that people are responding to that,”
governor said the Legislature has worked with the administration to enact
policies that help children in the past, so he’s hopeful they will come around
on this issue as well.
is a state Legislature that, in two straight budgets, at our request, has
overwhelmingly added significant money for children’s health issues,” DeWine
said. “They have focused a lot on children. So I still have hope.”
Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley on Tuesday once again
urged DeWine to issue a statewide mask mandate for schools, reiterating
comments she made about a month ago. (See The Hannah Report, 8/19/21.)
DeWine has the power to mandate masks in schools statewide. Enough is enough.
Stop passing the buck. It’s time to take action to keep our kids safe and in
school learning,” Whaley said.
to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), there were 7,325 COVID-19 cases
reported in the last 24 hours, which is higher than the 21-day average of
5,888. There were 344 hospitalizations reported in the last 24 hours, higher
than the 21-day average of 197. There were 23 new admissions to the intensive
care unit (ICU) in the last 24 hours, higher than the 21-day average of 19.
Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth posted on Facebook that its
hospital’s ICU is currently at capacity.
are implementing alternate care plans for critical patients and preparing to
open our fourth COVID unit to address this ongoing surge. Still, let’s be clear
– the level of resources we have been forced to dedicate to this single
diagnosis is unsustainable. Like many hospitals, including others in our
region, we are being stretched to the breaking point,” the hospital said,
urging all Ohioans to get vaccinated, wear masks and practice physical