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(WJW) – The Ohio Hospital Association is calling on school districts across the state to mandate masks and encourage vaccination as COVID-19 continues to surge from the omicron variant.

In a letter sent superintendents, administrators and school board members, the association said school districts have done a remarkable job keeping kids safe during the pandemic.

Still, with the rise of the omicron variant, they want to remind Ohioans of the severity of the situation.

“The best protection against developing severe illness from COVID-19, for both school-aged children and
adults, remains getting vaccinated. While younger, school-aged Ohioans continue to get vaccinated, it is
critical that we keep following protocols to protect students, teachers staff, and their families at home,” the letter said in part.

They commended districts that are already implementing mask mandates when students return from winter break.

“This simple step is one of the best ways that we can slow the spread of the virus,” the letter said.

Many schools across Northeast Ohio have announced that they will require masks at the beginning of January.

The association asked districts that aren’t enforcing a mask mandate to consider doing so.

“Health experts around Ohio have recommended Ohio schools have masking policies until more students get vaccinated, and that remains their recommendation as students return to school next week. This is even more urgent now because of the rapid spread of the omicron variant,” the letter said.

The letter talked about how the Ohio healthcare system is already taxed, both with high COVID hospitalizations and other patients who need their help.

“With omicron spreading quickly through Ohio, we need everyone’s help to make it through the coming weeks. Please help us by requiring students to wear masks when they return to school.”