COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus and Franklin County Public Health Wednesday announced a stay-home advisory, beginning Friday.

According to Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the advisory begins at 6 p.m. on November 20 and will last 28 days.

But Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts wants to make it clear that they will and can change things if they feel something needs to be done sooner.

“We are at a critical point in our fight against COVID-19,” Dr. Roberts said. “We must act now.”

All residents of Columbus and Franklin County are advised to stay home due to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The advisory urges people to only leave home for work or school, or for essential needs such as medical care, groceries and picking up food.

Dr. Roberts advised schools to continue with their current attendance plans, but urged halting extracurricular activities.

The advisory is not an order. Mayor Andrew Ginther likened it to a weather advisory warning of an impending storm. Ginther says there is no financial penalty for non-compliance, nor will police enforce the advisory.

“We simply cannot look the other way and we have to take action now,” said Franklin County Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola.

Dr. Andrew Thomas with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says there has been an 82 percent increase of COVID-19 patients at hospitals during the last two weeks.

“We cannot sound the alarm bell loud enough,” Dr. Thomas said. “People need to change their behaviors.”

Although Mayor Ginther says this advisory is not enforceable, he hopes the community is listening.

“If people don’t follow these recommendations, more people will be infected, more will be hospitalized and more will die,” Ginther said.

Although businesses and restaurants will remain open, Dr. Roberts says indoor dining will continue to be risk.

“It has nothing to do with the restaurant itself,” Dr. Roberts said. “It has to do with the function people are doing in those restaurants. You have to take your mask off to eat and drink.”

Health leaders such as John O’Grady, president of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, warn these places remaining opening may change if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

“If we can’t get this under control, it means more widespread shutdowns in the future,” O’Grady said. “It literally may be a matter of life and death.”

Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce never thought he would get COVID-19 — until he did.

“It’s terrifying. I was alone, I was scared, and I could not breathe,” Boyce said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.”