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Several Northeast Ohio school districts dropping mask mandates

Gov. Mike DeWine and local health experts say the decision to drop the masks is happening too soon.

CLEVELAND — It’s getting a little easier for parents to find a vaccine for children as more timeslots open up each day. And local health experts say shots need to go into arms quickly, especially as mask requirements at many schools go away.

If you remember last year, most students in Northeast Ohio went to school wearing masks as was required. Several districts started this year with mandates in place. But slowly, the policy is being eased back, making masks optional.

Mentor Public Schools announced plans to recommend, but not require masks, shortly after winter break. But other districts like Parma, Avon Lake, and Coventry Schools have decided to make masks optional now. 

Gov. Mike DeWine and area health experts say it's happening too soon. 

"My recommendation to schools is to keep the mask on for a few more weeks at least," says DeWine.

"Vaccine and then wearing a mask is absolutely the best way to prevent a spread of COVID," adds Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

Yet, COVID-19 is still spreading. The Aurora City School District reinstituted its mask requirement on Monday after an outbreak at an elementary school last week.   

But as more vaccines go into the arms of kids ages 5-11, more schools will be comfortable dropping mandates. Hudson City Schools offered a vaccine clinic for 5-11 year olds last Friday in partnership with Akron Children's Hospital. On Monday, its mask requirement also went away, even before kids had a chance for a second dose. 

"Give your kids a chance, your younger kids a chance, to get vaccinated and then get that second vaccination in 3 weeks," DeWine advises.

To date, nearly 71,000 kids in Ohio age 5 to 11 have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That's an increase of about 10,000 from the day before. A child isn't considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second dose. That menas those who start their vaccine regimen by Friday have a chance to be fully vaccianted by Christmas.

"Our ticket out of this remains the vaccine. The vaccine is the most important thing," says DeWine. 

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