On August 20, Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) President Teresa Zryd, MD, MSPH, FAAFP, wrote to Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, and Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria asking that ODH and the Department of Education immediately revise their guidance on masking in schools to reflect updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations supporting universal masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Effective August 5, these CDC recommendations relative to universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older) reflect concern over the widely circulating and highly contagious B.1.617.2 Delta variant. The new guidance is also in response to data that suggest fully vaccinated individuals are able to transmit the delta variant to those who are immunocompromised or not vaccinated, including children under 12 years of age.
In the letter, Dr. Zryd states, “The OAFP, in addition to its parent organization, the American Academy of Family Physicians, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the CDC’s guidance on universal masking in K-12 schools. Ohio schools serve many children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe. Layered prevention strategies protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households so that in-person learning can occur. Masking, however, is key.”
The letter goes on to say, “As it currently stands, Ohio’s guidance on masking is weak and outdated. As students return to the classroom this fall, Ohio’s guidance, for the safety of all concerned, must be updated so that local school boards have the latest and best information upon which to make decisions. Universal masking in schools K-12 is essential. We implore you to immediately take action as the safety of our school children, teachers, and their families is at risk.”
Family physicians who wish to contact their local school board members about universal indoor masking for K-12 schools, can download a template letter that can be modified and/or personalized.