As COVID numbers drop, (many) masks are coming off

Students and staff in Centerville and Kettering schools will not be required to wear face masks when they return to classes next month after recent decisions in both districts. FILE

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Students and staff in Centerville and Kettering schools will not be required to wear face masks when they return to classes next month after recent decisions in both districts. FILE

Dayton city hall, Wright-Patterson, schools suspend or lift masking requirements

It’s not happening everywhere, but a growing number of employers and organizations are suspending mask requirements, as lower case numbers begin to push COVID-19 into an endemic phase.

In just the past few days, Dayton city hall, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Sinclair Community College and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force lifted requirements for most employees and visitors to wear masks.

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It’s not just Dayton, of course. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that more than 90% of the U.S. population lives in areas where they no longer need to wear masks.

As of Thursday, the COVID level for Montgomery County on the CDC web site was deemed “low.” Greene, Warren and Miami counties were at the same level. The CDC pegs Clark County at “medium,” meaning there are between 10 and 20 COVID admissions per 100,000 population over seven days.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said city employees were told Monday afternoon they no longer needed to wear masks or undergo COVID-19 testing, which had been required of workers who were unvaccinated or who refused to disclose their vaccination status.

Visitors to city facilities also are no longer required to don facial coverings.

As of Saturday, Dayton Live is lifting mask requirement for audiences at the Victoria Theatre, Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, The Loft Theatre and the PNC Arts Annex.

People visiting courtrooms in the downtown Dayton federal building no longer need to wear masks to get inside, according to an order issued this week by the chief judge of the Southern District of Ohio.

Effective Tuesday, the court located at 200 W. Second St. suspended the requirement for individuals to wear masks in common areas.

Many area school districts made the decision earlier, dropping requirements to wear masks In February. Centerville, Kettering, Northmont, Xenia and many other districts have dropped the requirement. So have others, including Tipp City, Troy, Miamisburg, Springboro and Huber Heights.

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Ohio K-12 students required to wear a mask to school

Ohio K-12 students required to wear a mask to school

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Ohio K-12 students required to wear a mask to school

Wright State University is also letting students ditch their masks in many public spaces. And Miami University will only require masks “in classrooms during instruction, laboratory or other research settings, and in health care settings,” the Miami University student newspaper, the Miami Student, reported Wednesday.

Why the sea change? Nationally and locally, COVID case numbers have trended in a better direction for a while now, and the CDC a week ago relaxed its mask guidance, letting most people forego face coverings as long as COVID hospitalizations in their regions remain low.

There have been voices of caution. Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County, said his organization is still encouraging people to get vaccinated “to help protect themselves and others.” But he said the rapid decrease in cases locally and nationally is good news and affects masking.

“At the medium or low levels, there’s not a general recommendation for mask use,” Suffoletto said. “Each individual person, depending on their situation, may choose to wear a mask in certain situations, especially if they’re immunocompromised, or visiting someone who is.”

Of course, many sites still require masks, such as hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. Dayton Public Schools is among a small handful of school districts that have maintained mask mandates.

And federal law still requires them on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation — although the CDC dropped its requirement that students and others wear masks on school buses, as of Feb. 25.

You can learn more about your county’s data by visiting the CDC website.

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