COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus City Council voted Monday to repeal the city’s mask ordinance.
Council members wanted to make clear, however, that the pandemic is not over, saying this is a phase of transitioning.
The vote to repeal the order was passed unanimously Monday but doesn’t go into effect until Mayor Andrew Ginther signs it, which his office said could be done either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Repealing the ordinances will allow Columbus to fall in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance, meaning fully vaccinated people will have a choice on masking whether they are inside or outside.
The ordinance repeals two previous ordinances, 1643-2020 and 1807-2020, which both addressed the local mandate last year. However, residents who have not received the shot are urged to wear masks in public settings. In all cases, the rules of social distancing still apply.
Richard Coglianese, with Columbus’ City Attorney’s Office, said that once the mandate goes away, businesses can still implement their own rules on masking.
“A business can mandate that individuals that wish to enter the premise wear a face mask and they can even require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a face mask,” he said. “That would simply be up to the business to choose the rules it wants to apply.”
Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown is calling for people to get the vaccine, but also for people to be considerate of those who haven’t yet.
“Many communities in Columbus have yet to reach the 40 percent vaccination rate and frankly, they’re many of the communities that were hardest hit during this pandemic both in terms of sickness and death and loss of jobs and income,” Brown said. “I just want to emphasize that.”
The mask ordinance, passed by council last July, required nearly everyone over the age of six to wear a facial covering while in public when social distancing could not be practiced. The order was later amended to match the Ohio Department of Health’s orders.
Last month, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and his administration asked council to repeal the local mask order to align with guidance from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health.
“Repealing the mask mandate aligns the city with the guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health and the CDC,” Ginther said in a statement released Monday night. “Our best tool in the fight against COVID-19 remains vaccination, and I encourage residents to do so. In addition, continue to adhere to basic common sense health guidelines: wash your hands frequently and stay home if you’re sick.”
Before the vote, council member Priscilla Tyson said that now is the time to repeal the city’s face covering mandate, in order to be in compliance with the CDC and ODH.
Both she and Ginther urge members of the community who are not vaccinated for COVID-19 to get their shots.
“My message to them is to one, do the research,” Tyson said. “Gather information. There’s lots of information out here. Get the facts on why it’s so important to get the vaccine and then, based upon your research, to please, please get vaccinated.”
According to ODH, 49.09 percent of Franklin County has started the vaccination process, and 43.45 percent of the county is fully vaccinated