Editorial: DeWine must call lawmakers’ bluff, institute a school mask mandate. Kids are in danger

A recent editorial by the Columbus Dispatch:

It had been a while.

We had nearly forgotten what it was like to hear our governor — once a national voice in the fight against COVID-19 — preach the gospel of vaccines and the effectiveness of masks.

It was important that Mike DeWine returned to his pulpit with members of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association to stress the urgent need for masking in schools, but his message did not ring completely true.

As COVID-19 cases in kids soar and children’s hospitals fill up, DeWine insisted that his hands are tied and that he can’t issue a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools due to Senate Bill 22, which allows lawmakers to modify or repeal health orders issued by a governor or the Ohio Department of Health.

“I vetoed the bill that gave the legislature the power,” DeWine said during the nearly 90 minute press conference Tuesday. “That veto, as you well know, because you reported it, was overridden by the state legislature. In addition to that, the state legislature has made it very clear to me that they will take off a health order if I put a health order on.”

DeWine says fighting for a mask mandate in schools — something teachers’ unions and many school officials say they want, and reason dictates — would be counterproductive and create confusion.

Instead, his strategy is to appeal to the better angels, even though far too many school board members, superintendents and parents have been ignoring those very angels and squawking about masks this entire time.

There is absolutely no evidence that once again hearing the truth about the pandemic will change the hearts or minds of those who incorrectly and irresponsibly insist that it is just like the flu or a figment of our collective imaginations.

Those same better angels were ignored at the onset of the pandemic when the elderly and those with certain health conditions were viewed as the most vulnerable.

Hostility around mask wearing and vaccines at school board meetings and the Statehouse is a clear indication those angels will continue to be ignored.

… What he needs to do is call lawmakers’ bluff.

DeWine needs to put politics aside and take a stand for children. For their very lives.

We call on the governor to institute a mask mandate for K-12 schools and fight his misguided Republican brethren over the issue in court if they lift it.

Let Senate President Matt Huffman and Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp explain why it is OK to ignore legitimate scientists and health experts and instead follow the lead of people such as Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, who falsely, and with a straight face, said that vaccines make people magnetic.

Let them and their negligent members look into the eyes of parents of sick or dead children and explain why the words of people such as Tenpenny are more valuable in the Statehouse than those of Cincinnati Children’s Chief of Staff, Dr. Patty Manning.

… Cases among school-age children are increasing at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the population.

Despite his assertions, DeWine is anything but powerless to help slow the spread of the disease among kids.

The legislature may have given itself power to repeal DeWine’s health orders, but they have not stolen away his power.

He needs the political courage; he and his staff already have shown they can be creative.

… Leading the state of Ohio is not the job of school superintendents or medial directors.

It is the governor’s responsibility.

Surely, DeWine does not expect school boards and districts to courageously take on mobs of maskless COVID deniers if he won’t even square off with members of his own party.

He needs to find a way to exercise his power for the sake of Ohio kids, our future.

— Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 17