On Aug. 17, Gov. Mike DeWine presented information on the rise in COVID-19 cases statewide. He also appealed to parents and school officials to take preventative steps, including vaccination and masking.
Frank O’Linn, secretary of education and superintendent of schools, said the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland continues to affirm both of these strategies and strongly recommends wearing face masks in the Catholic schools, especially for the unvaccinated.
All Catholic schools in the diocese have been following the directives of their local boards of health for in-person operation in the school setting, he said. In keeping with the guidance released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, masks may always be worn and are highly encouraged, and individual schools may create policies which require masks for indoor spaces based on local conditions. Furthermore, masks may be required for a period of time in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in a school or community, or for any reason when a local health department deems it to be necessary due to local circumstances.
O’Linn said face coverings continue to be an important part of the layered prevention strategies that have been shown to be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the school setting. Whether required or strongly recommended, proper mask wearing reduces both the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and the possible need for isolation or quarantine. All nine boards of health with jurisdiction in the Diocese of Cleveland’s eight counties are following the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Guidelines for Quarantine After Exposure in K-12 Classroom Settings. In it, students who are unvaccinated and unmasked will be required to quarantine for a minimum of seven days, or possibly longer, following exposure to a COVID-19 positive individual at school. Those who are masked, regardless of vaccination status, will be permitted to remain in school and participate in sports or extracurricular activities.
“Catholic schools educate in partnership with parents and guardians, the primary educators of their children, to provide holistic formation of young people by living the faith every day. Centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these institutions prepare young people with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in life as well as the values and virtues necessary for life everlasting, including care for the life and dignity of the human person,” O’Linn said.
“Our Catholic school communities will continue to come together with health experts, community supports and families, to adjust nimbly to the pandemic’s rapidly changing conditions and guidance. This approach has, since March of 2020, enabled Catholic schools to navigate the pandemic’s challenges, providing the best possible education and formation while upholding our most sacred responsibility to the safety of everyone in our communities -- students, families, and educators alike -- our greatest gifts from God,” he added.