Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

ODH: Masks for staff, students

By Leslie Gartrell
WAPAKONETA - The state's department of health Tuesday issued updated COVID-19 guidance for staff and students returning to school this fall, noting the highly-contagious delta variant is rapidly becoming the dominant variant in Ohio.
Citing new information about the variant's ability to spread among vaccinated people, the Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.
In a Tuesday news release, ODH officials said they strongly recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and eligible students returning to classrooms this fall and consistent mask-wearing for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
"The (ODH) also strongly recommends those who are not fully vaccinated to consistently wear masks, which have proven a very effective tool for reducing the spread of the virus," the release reads.
ODH also advised layering prevention measures, including good ventilation, regular cleaning, hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick.
In the executive summary of the new guidance, ODH said preventative measures are paramount in preventing the spread of the virus, particularly the delta variant.
"(The delta variant) is highly transmissible, increasing risk, especially for those who are unvaccinated," the guidance reads. "Because the delta variant spreads so quickly, these strategies to reduce transmission in school are critically important to protect students, teachers, staff, and communities."
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.
The CDC guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. That includes 60% of U.S. counties, CDC officials said. New case rates are particularly high in the South and Southwest, according to a CDC tracker.
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. So-called breakthrough infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is "indistinguishable" from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said.
The data emerged over the last couple of days from more than 100 samples from several states and one other country. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But "it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act," Walensky said.
Locally, four new COVID-19 cases were reported in Auglaize County since health officials' last report on Thursday, according to a Tuesday news release from county health officials. The new cases raise the county's number of cumulative cases to 3,728. Auglaize County health officials also reported a cumulative 1,283 probable cases, 4,915 people who are presumed to have recovered and 65 deaths from COVID-19.
As of Tuesday night, ODH reported a cumulative 1,123,964 confirmed and probable cases, 61,673 hospitalizations and 20,490 Ohio resident deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
- The Associated press contributed to this story.
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