DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– As cases continue to rise, several Miami Valley health leaders are encouraging schools to mask up as students and staff return from holiday gatherings. They say cases are rising and aren’t slowing down anytime soon, so if parents want their child to stay in the classroom universal masking for everyone may be the safest option.

“Right now we’re worried about how we’re going to keep schools open as omicron sweeps across the Miami Valley,” said CCCHD Health Commissioner Charles Patterson.

Patterson says the Miami Valley is preparing to see a surge of omicron cases for the next month and is encouraging schools to mask up. Before the new year, Clark County’s Northeastern Local School District announced a change in their mask policy to prepare for students and staff returning from the holidays.

“Therefore, based on the continued rise in cases and quarantines and the recommendation from CCCHD, NELSD has decided to take an essential step yet again to help our students and staff stay in school. Starting on Monday, January 3rd, NELSD will re-implement a universal face mask requirement for all students (PK-12), staff, and visitors while inside and NELSD buildings through at least Tuesday, January 18, 2022. In addition, face masks are still required for anyone transported by a NELSD bus or van.”

John P. Kronour, Ph.D., Superintendent, Northeastern Local Schools

“What we’re talking to our superintendents about even today is considering having mask policies for staff and faculty,” said Patterson.

Whether students, staff or visitors are vaccinated, Patterson says masks for everyone may put a dent in spread from holiday gatherings.

“We have a high level of cases and expect even higher over the next 30-to-45 days due to omicron so masking in schools is definitely something that can help,” said Patterson.

The coronavirus dashboard shows nearly 60-percent of all Ohioans have started the vaccination process.