As vaccine numbers grow, Columbus Public Health recommends residents keep the masks on for now


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As Ohioans are opting-in to the state’s Vax-A-Million program, Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts is weighing in on the opportunity for Ohioans to win $1 million or a scholarship to a state university.

“If it encourages people to get vaccinated, I’m supportive of it,” she said.

According to Roberts, Columbus Public Health has seen a slight increase in the number of people getting vaccinated since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine first announced the Vax-A-Million program last week.

“Saturday was our first Saturday since Vax-A-Million was announced and at that Saturday clinic, we had over 300 people show up without an appointment,” she said. “Our average had been somewhere between 70 to 100 showing up every day without an appointment, so that was significant on last Saturday.”

Roberts said 39 percent of Franklin County residents have been fully vaccinated. She added that while she would be very happy to see that figure reached 70 percent, she would be content with it reaching 51 percent.

Tuesday also marked the first full day after the Ohio Department of Health amended its health order regarding masks. The state now says fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask in most settings.

The mask ordinance in Columbus, however, remains in effect.

The ordinance, passed last year by city council, requires most individuals over the age of 6 to wear a mask in public when social distancing cannot be practiced.

A spokesperson for city council said the city follows the guidance of Columbus Public Health and will proceed or act accordingly on the ordinance.

Roberts explained why all Franklin County residents should continue following the ordinance, fully vaccinated or not.

“With 39 percent of our population — only 39 percent of our population fully vaccinated, there’s a large segment of our population that is not vaccinated, so I would encourage all residents of Columbus and Franklin County to continue to wear a mask, whether you’re vaccinated or not,” she said. “Now, the sticky part is do we need orders to do that? The current orders require everyone to wear a mask whether they’re vaccinated or not, and that is not in line with the CDC guidance. The CDC guidance says only unvaccinated people have to wear a mask, so the tricky point will be how do we make an order that is only segmented to a fraction of our population, and a portion of our population, that currently we don’t have the means to identify really who’s vaccinated and who’s unvaccinated?”

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