Nearly 58% of students at Ohio’s public K-12 schools are now required by their local district to wear masks while inside their schools, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday, citing information from the Ohio Department of Health.
That figure includes students at Bryan City Schools, which on Sept. 4 instituted a mask policy for class and all indoor sporting events in response to a sudden spike in COVID cases since the beginning of the school year, which was Aug. 18.
Mark Rairigh, BCS superintendent, said in an email to the BCS community that the mask mandate was initiated after consultation with the Williams County Health Department and local medical providers, pediatricians and doctors.
“Heavy recommendation from our community medical experts to add a layer of safety, that being masks, to our students to help slow the spread of the virus was a consistent message provided to us,” Rairigh said. “Masks also provide the ability for students to stay in school and reduce the need for at-home quarantines if they are found to be a close contact to a positive case.”
BCS as of Friday is the only district in Williams County to initiate a mask policy inside the school. The policy isn’t meant to be permanent, with a review set to occur on Oct. 1.
“We are experiencing a very high spike in cases right now and we are very hopeful that we will see the decline in the near future,” Rairigh said in the early September email.
On Sept. 1, only 35% of Ohio students were required to wear a mask, but due to a recent spike in cases, that number has risen, DeWine noted.
“I am pleased to see more school superintendents and school boards make the right decision and require masks to protect students and teachers from COVID-19 spread,” DeWine said. “We share a common goal of ensuring kids are in school, in person, five days a week. While vaccinations remain the best protection against severe COVID-19 cases, masking will help protect those that can’t yet receive the vaccine and adds another layer of protection for those that have.”
Based on a recent uptick in cases and anticipated trends identified in the John Hopkins University model, Williams County is projected to have a continual increase in new COVID-19 cases in the next four weeks, Victoria Smith, director of health education and preparedness for the Williams County Combined Health District, said Wednesday in her weekly Community Talking Points memo.
“The John Hopkins University model can be used to predict the number of new cases that Williams County will have each week for the next four weeks. Historically, it has been the model that generates the most accurate forecast for our area,” Smith said.
The forecast projects that Williams County will go from 179 new cases in the first week of September to as many as 242 new cases by the end of September.
For the period Sept. 8-15, Williams County reported 198 new cases and seven hospitalizations, but no deaths. The county ranks 37th out of 88 counties in the state for cases per capita, at 582.4 per 100,000 residents.
About 38% of county residents have completed the COVID vaccine series, with almost 41% having received at least the first dose.
Smith said vaccines continue to offer the best protection against COVID-19, though wearing a mask and social distancing can be used to lower your risk of infection or risk of spreading the virus to others. While vaccines reduce severe illness and death from COVID-19, the surge in cases calls for additional precautions to be taken in our community, she said.
Walk-in vaccinations are available at the Montpelier WCHD office during clinic hours. Pfizer (for ages 12 and up) and Johnson & Johnson (for ages 18 and up) vaccines are available Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To make an appointment, log onto bit.ly/WCVaccine or call 419-485-3141.
Free transportation to COVID-19 vaccine appointments or clinics is available to Williams County residents through the Ohio Department of Transportation Rides to Community Immunity program. To schedule a ride, call 419-592-8726.
Call 419-485-3141 to set an appointment if you are homebound due to mobility issues or cannot travel to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.