At a news conference held Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and representatives from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, or OCHA, made an appeal to the public and those who work in Ohio K–12 school districts to require masks. 

OCHA, according to a tweet from DeWine, urges the superintendents of all K–12 schools in the state to require masks for both staff and students. 

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases surge across the state. According to the Athens City-County Health Department, on Sept. 13 there were 1,003 active COVID-19 cases in the county. 

Debbie Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children's Hospital, said COVID-19 was originally thought not to impact children in a significant way. However, she said, that is no longer the case, as 25% of all positive cases in Ohio are children. 

The Athens City School District, or ACSD, temporarily closed for over a week only days after the school year began due to positive COVID-19 cases and exposure within its transportation staff, according to a previous Post report. ACSD was closed from Aug. 27 through Sept. 6, after extending its closure. 

DeWine said the best way to keep students in the classroom is for those 12 years of age and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Students who are too young to get vaccines need to wear a mask when they get to school, DeWine said. 

“We need our kids in school, so they don't fall behind, so their parents can continue to work and not have to take time off to be home with the children,” DeWine said. “And so, we don't acerbate the behavioral health challenges that kids face.”

DeWine said the Ohio legislature has made it clear that if he were to issue a statewide mask mandate for students in K–12 schools, it would remove it. DeWine said he would otherwise issue a mandate.