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Ohio Department of Health: Schools can't sub face shields for masks in most cases

ODH cited guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In this April 2, 2020 photo, Tilliesa Banks, right, an emergency services nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, helps a colleague put on a medical face shield prior to their shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department. (AP)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio health officials say school districts will not be allowed to use face shields rather than facial coverings or masks in most cases as a means of curbing coronavirus transmission as schools get ready to start the 2020-21 academic year.

The Ohio Department of Health on Saturday cited guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says there is currently not enough evidence to establish the effectiveness of face shields in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Ohio authorities are requiring masks or facial coverings for students, faculty and staff in places providing child care or education for children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Exemptions are included for people with medical conditions or for such activities as eating and drinking or playing at recess.

The health department said Saturday that face shields may be an option for those exempted from the face covering requirement or in some circumstances, such as the need for lip reading.

If used, face shields should extend from the forehead with no gap and wrap around the sides of the face and extend below the chin, the department said.

Gov. Mike DeWine last week released figures indicating that nearly 600,000 Ohio schoolchildren in 325 districts will return to school this fall for in-person classes.

Almost 400,000 students in 55 districts will be attending online, while about 380,000 students in 154 districts will be doing some combination of in-person and online classes, the governor said.

The state didn’t have information for 78 additional districts.

DeWine said he believes that schools are doing a good job of getting ready for all options, but children’s well-being and the prospects for activities such as sports, band and theater will depend on community efforts to reduce virus spread, including continued mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings.

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