Waverly City Schools are requiring masks for staff and students this week as COVID-19 numbers begin to surge in Pike County.

WAVERLY— Rising COVID-19 numbers caused cancellations and alterations to Pike County schools earlier this week as the second half of the academic year begins.

Waverly City Schools were set to return from its winter break on Monday, but, after county case numbers again surpassed 200, it announced changes in its plans.

“Due to the rise in local Covid numbers, Waverly City Schools will hold an in-service day tomorrow for Staff Only,” reads a Sunday Facebook post from WCS. “We will be doing planning with staff and also evaluating COVID data and protocols. Students will not attend tomorrow, Monday, January 3rd.”

When students returned on Tuesday, so did masks — at least for the remainder of the week.

The decision falls in-line with the urging of the Ohio Hospital Association, an organization compiled of 245 hospitals in the state, who addressed a letter to superintendents, administrators, and school boards last week.

“To those who do not currently have a mask requirement, we respectfully ask that you consider one as your students return after holiday break,” reads the letter sent on Dec. 28, 2021. “Health experts around Ohio have recommended Ohio schools have masking policies until more students get vaccinated, and that remains their recommendation as students return to school next week. This is even more urgent now because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.”

The decision to reinstitute masks comes after the county reached its highest tally since late September. The under 18 population made up more than 10% of the 240 active cases reported by the Pike County General Health District on Jan. 3, those 27 the most in over three months.

This age demographic, ages 0 to 19, are the least vaccinated in Pike County and the state. As of Monday, the Ohio Department of Health says 12% of the county youth has completed the vaccination process. Only 23% of Ohioans under 19 have reached this status.

Cases have also reached unprecedented levels in the Buckeye state as the new year begins. The 21-day average reported by ODH is north of 13,000 new daily cases, but multiple days have exceeded 20,000 since Christmas.

According to OHA, one-in-three of hospital patients are COVID-19 positive- those 6,257 an 188% increase in the last 60 days.

While masks are set to be in Waverly schools through Friday, it said it was still determining its long-term policy.

“Communication with the Pike County Health District will continue daily to review positive cases in our school district,” WCS said in a Monday Facebook post. The district will reevaluate our plan for next week regarding in-person learning and the mask requirement. If numbers continue to rise, the plan may be reevaluated sooner.”

Other county schools will continue to follow the “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” guidelines, where students exposed to the virus can avoid quarantining if they choose to wear masks or receive a negative test after exposure. The period that a student must wear a mask was recently changed to 10 days instead of 14.

PCGHD also reported the 77th COVID-19 related death this week, the first of 2022. The individual was a male in his 60s.

Contact Patrick Keck at pkeck@newswatchman.com or by phone at 740-947-2149, ext. 300431 and follow him on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

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