As data shows rising numbers of children contracting COVID-19, school districts are still begging for funding to keep students and staff safe.
One of the state’s teacher’s unions said school districts can’t be expected to live up to the standard needed to prevent COVID-19 spread in schools if they don’t have the proper resources.
“All students are going to be learning in a different environment than we’re used to, and all students are continuing to live in a state and in a country, in a local community where we still have a pandemic going on,” said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, during a Tuesday press conference with progressive think tank Policy Matters.
DiMauro is also concerned about new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, showing a 90% increase in COVID-19 cases among children in the last month, and 97,000 cases nationwide among children.
Only nine states in the country reported testing of children, according to the study, but Ohio was included in those states.
As of Aug. 6, Ohio reported 8,572 COVID-19 cases in children ages 0-19. Children made up 8.9% of all cases in the data provided in the report.
Ohio Department of Health numbers released Monday showed monthly cases for ages 0-19 more than doubled between June and July, from 2,203 to 4,506.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a total case count of 9,360 for ages 0-19 during Tuesday’s coronavirus update. Among those, 229 hospitalizations and 2 deaths were reported in that age group.
Physicians from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Dayton Children’s Hospital all said while children are not overwhelmingly suffering from severe symptoms or effects from the disease, they should still be treated as at high risk of spreading the disease.
“If you’re sick, stay home,” said Dr. Adam Mezoff, of Dayton Children’s Hospital. “It doesn’t have to be COVID.”
Education officials are some of the many groups calling for federal assistance held up in the HEROES Act. DiMauro said that money is needed not only to bring in the gallons of hand sanitizer for students, but also plexiglass separations for office, additional staffing of all kinds and even upgraded HVAC systems to bring critical ventilation and filtration medical professionals have said is needed to bring students and staff back to classrooms.
“Columbus City Schools alone estimated it’s going to cover over $100 million in one-time and continuing costs related to the pandemic,” DiMauro said. “And they’re starting out online.
DiMauro and Policy Matters executive director Hannah Halbert criticized the $1 trillion U.S. Senate’s response to the HEROES Act, called the HEALS Act. Halbert said the HEALS Act doesn’t include any support for state and local governments, and school funding is limited to those districts going back to full-time in-person instruction.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t so dangerous I would call that proposal a little bit of nonsense,” Halbert said.
Jake Zuckerman contributed to this report.