COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio students prepare to go back to school amid rising COVID-19 cases, Gov. Mike DeWine stressed the importance of students wearing a mask if they are not vaccinated.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, DeWine said that he will not be issuing a mask mandate for schools.
Instead, the state is leaving the decision for kids to wear masks in the hands of school districts and parents.
"Let me be quite candid. I do not believe that I have the ability today to mandate that," DeWine said.
When asked why not, DeWine replied with a smile, "I could make a smart comment, but I won't," a likely reference to Ohio lawmakers passing and overriding a veto on Senate Bill 22, which gives the state's General Assembly the ability to be able to reject any of the governor’s or health department’s health orders.
"There's not the appetite in this state today for that type of mandate," DeWine continued. "We did last year in the schools and it worked well. There's not the appetite in this state for that. I do not effectively have the ability to do that. But what I do have the ability to do and what the health department has the ability to do is to tell what the facts are."
DeWine added that when kids were masked in the classroom, the state did not see much spread, further emphasizing the push for kids 12 years and older to get the vaccine and for students to wear a mask.
"If you want your child to play sports, not being vaccinated and not wearing a mask in school is a recipe for that not to happen or for that to certainly potentially be interrupted," DeWine said.
Right now, the only vaccine children 12 years and older can get is the Pfizer vaccine.
On Monday, the Ohio Department of Health "strongly" recommended that unvaccinated and school staff wear masks when classes resume in the fall.