PAULDING COUNTY – As K-12 schools prepare to start the new school year, Paulding County Health Department supports full in-person learning. To facilitate and maximize keeping our students safe in the classroom, while also minimizing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, the health department strongly recommended schools follow CDC guidance and adopt universal masking policies for all students, teachers and staff regardless of their vaccination status.

Our fight against COVID-19 is not over. COVID-19 variants have emerged that increase the risk of transmission and result in worsening illness. The Delta variant is rapidly becoming the dominant strain in Ohio. Because the Delta variant spreads so quickly, these strategies to reduce transmission in schools are critically important to protect students, teachers, staff and communities.

It is proven that masking reduces transmission of the virus which causes COVID-19 and it also protects those who are not vaccinated. Because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and as a county only 35% of our community is vaccinated, universal masking will add another layer of protection to keep our children in school.

Schools should continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers and staff. Hand washing and sanitizing continue to be important tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should practice hand washing and proper respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes) to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Additional recommended layers of protection include good ventilation and maintaining at least three feet of social distance between students.

Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Paulding County Health Department continues to urge all eligible individuals to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

These are not orders but are data-driven and science-based recommendations and they follow CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. The final decision is made by each school district.

Paulding County Health Department will continue to work closely with local schools to monitor the situation and provide updated recommendations as appropriate.