Ohio changes policy for reporting COVID-19 cases in schools

 Masked students sit in a classroom at Worthington Kilbourne High School near Columbus in March 2021
Masked students sit in a classroom at Worthington Kilbourne High School near Columbus in March 2021 [Daniel Konik / Statehouse News Bureau]
Featured Audio

The Ohio Department of Health has changed the way K-12 schools should notify parents about COVID-19 cases in their buildings.

ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff says it is no longer worthwhile for schools to alert parents of individual cases of COVID in classrooms or buildings.

“The quick spread of the omicron variant and its rapid clinical course, in fact, have made universal contact tracing case investigation and exposure notification impractical and less impactful than taking a more targeted approach,” Vanderhoff said at a Thursday briefing.

From now on, local health departments will focus on notifying the public of clusters of cases. And he’s recommending schools continue to require masks be worn inside buildings.

Currently, more than half of Ohio’s school districts do not mandate masks. According to the Ohio Department of Education's website, 47.9% of Ohio schools required all of their students to wear masks inside buildings.

Dashboard on mask policies of school districts as of Jan 20, 2022

Earlier this month, ODH said it had changed its priority for the distribution of rapid test kits. The agency said it would prioritize providing tests first to K-12 schools instead of libraries and health departments as it had previously done. But Vanderhoff says the agency is now considering changing that.

Vanderhoff says the people most at risk of serious effects of COVID are unvaccinated or older Ohioans and people with underlying health conditions. Yet rapid tests that could be used by communities to prevent spread in those populations remain in short supply. So Vanderhoff says the agency is considering shifting its priority for rapid tests away from K-12 schools.

“We will pivot, as needed, to make sure our limited supply is going to best effect,” Vanderhoff said.

The state is expecting 480,000 rapid tests to arrive soon. ODH had ordered them for the month of January. There's been a shortage of rapid tests nationwide as demand has increased since the omicron variant took hold shortly before the holidays in December.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Support Provided By

More Wksu Schedule
More Wclv Schedule
Schedule
Donate
WKSU
WCLV
NPR Hourly Newscast
The Latest News and Headlines from NPR
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.
This text will be replaced with a player.