Ohio Governor Issues Mask Mandate for K-12 Students Returning to School

August 5, 2020 Updated: August 5, 2020

A new order from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine requires all students in kindergarten through high school to wear masks when they return to in-person classes this fall.

The mask mandate, which applies to all public, private, and charter schools in the state, is expected to affect around 1.7 million students. A few exceptions to the order include those who are unable to remove masks without assistance, and those with medical or psychological conditions that would be aggravated by wearing a mask, such as severe autism.

“Frankly this gives us the best shot to keep Ohio’s kids and educators safe and physically in school,” DeWine said Tuesday during a press briefing, adding that the decision was made based on a letter from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in which the health experts recommended face covering for school-age children.

“We all are trying to bring certainty to something we quite candidly cannot bring certainty to,” the Republican governor said.

DeWine said his state is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver 2 million masks to regional education service centers, which will distribute them to individual schools.

The Ohio government has issued a statewide mask mandate last week, requiring people to wear masks in indoor public places, in outdoor places where physical distancing isn’t possible, and on public transportation. Exceptions to the order include those under the age of 10, those with medical problems that restrict breathing, law enforcement personnel, speakers at religious services, and people actively exercising, eating, or drinking.

“We cannot know what the next three weeks will bring, let alone the next three months or six months or nine months of school,” said DeWine on Tuesday. “Each school district in this state faces a different reality because each school district is in a different place—different place because of their buildings, different place because of what’s going on in their community, different place because of the community spread that they have and how great that spread is.”

“What I’m told is that the community spread in that community will be reflected in that school. I guess it just makes common sense,” DeWine said. As of Tuesday, Ohio’s health department reported over 95,000 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, with more than 11,100 hospitalizations and 3,570 confirmed and probable deaths.