Troy students mask up; Piper, Propes discuss masks, virus transmission

By Sam Wildow

swildow@aimmediamidwest.com

MIAMI COUNTY — On Wednesday, Troy City Schools’ mandatory face mask policy went into effect after being approved by a majority vote of 4-1 by the Troy Board of Education earlier this week. During a Facebook Live video on Wednesday, Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper spoke with Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes about face masks, as well as about virus transmission.

“Over the last school year, we had 146 students test positive for COVID-19. That was over the course of 169 days of instruction in our schools,” Piper said.

On Friday, the district surpassed those numbers with 148 positive cases among students and three positive cases among staff for this school year.

Piper said it feels to them like they almost set a new record each week for COVID numbers.

“We had 43 last week,” Piper said. He said this week, the district is trending at the same rate of infections, “or even higher.”

“So that is the reason Troy City Schools have moved to a mask requirement at this time,” Piper said. He said the district plans on working with Miami County Public Health to determine a benchmark for the district to reach before removing the mandatory mask requirement.

Piper said the guidelines for being considered a “close contact” exposure to a COVID-positive person include being within six feet of the person for at least 15 minutes.

He added there are times for students to remove their masks when they are outside of that six-foot distance, such as taking a restroom break or walking down a hallway.

“There are plenty of opportunities for students to take mask breaks during the day,” Piper said. “We are not talking about a student wearing a mask from the moment they walk into the building to the moment they walk out consistently all day long. We’re talking about students, when they’re in a classroom setting, sitting near their peers, yes, they have to put a mask on to avoid being in that close contact.”

Propes discussed mask effectiveness, going over how masks help prevent the virus from being transmitted.

“We found out really quickly last year that the masks work,” Propes said. “It is probably the easiest and one of the most effective tools, other than vaccination, to combat this virus.”

Propes addressed the criticism that various types of masks receive due to the size of the virus being small enough to go through the fibers of the mask.

“People talk about, well, the size of the virus will go right through the mask regardless of what mask you have, unless the mask you have is an N95,” Propes said. “That’s true and false. Yes, if you’re shooting a virus through the air through this fabric, yeah, it’ll go right through it. But that’s not how viruses are transmitted. They’re transmitted through water vapor that we exhale and we breathe. That water vapor and that mucus is what carries that virus.”

He said the masks offer some degree of protection for those who wear the mask, but “the biggest benefit is that you’re protecting everybody else in that room from maybe that sick individual if they’re wearing a mask, because they’re not going to be able to, as readily, spread that virus because of the mask wearing.”

Propes later discussed the degree of effectiveness for masks, saying the most effective face masks are N95 masks, but those who wear them have to be medically-cleared to wear those. While other face masks may be more effective than others, they all offer some level of protection.

Propes also addressed research regarding masks and how to do a review of the research that is available, such as seeking out as many sources as possible, including sources that may or may not support one’s own beliefs.

“There is plenty, plenty of research that proves that masks are safe and effective and work,” Propes said.

The full video and discussion is available on the Troy Schools Facebook page at www.facebook.com/troy.schools.

COVID case numbers at other local districts

At Tipp City Schools, as of Sept. 10, there were a total of 68 positive cases among students since the start of school, as well as seven staff members. The district has also recorded 798 students who are considered to have had “close contact” exposure to COVID-positive students.

At Piqua City Schools, there have been 38 confirmed positive cases reported to the district since school began Sept. 7 for Piqua students. Approximately 63 students have also quarantined due to close contact exposure. Some students were quarantined due to self-reported close contacts outside of school, Piqua Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said.

At Miami East schools, they have had 11 positive students and five positive staff members so far this year.

The cumulative case numbers for Bethel Local Schools in the 2021-2022 school year are as follows:

• Bethel Elementary School: 11 confirmed cases for students and staff

• Bethel Middle School: 10 confirmed cases for students and staff

• Bethel High School: 10 confirmed cases for students and staff

Bethel Local Schools Superintendent Justin Firks said their district is also not requiring students to quarantine, or be excluded from school, if they have been exposed to students with COVID-19. Firks said the district provides letters to all families of close contacts encouraging them to quarantine but letting them know it is up to them based on potential symptoms they may or may not have.

Newton Local Schools’ current confirmed cases as of Friday were two positive cases at the high school and zero at the elementary school, according to the district’s website.

According to Milton-Union’s website, the district has had 42 positive cases among students this school year so far, along with six staff members.

According to Bradford’s website, Bradford Exempted Village Schools has reported three confirmed cases at the elementary school that are either students or staff as of Sept. 14.

Representatives from Covington Exempted Village Schools did not respond to a request for information as of press time on Friday. Information also did not appear to be available on the district website.