COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio State University is mandating masks indoors on campus, effective immediately.

A letter sent to students, faculty and staff from university President Kristina M. Johnson reads:

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Since December, we have celebrated the introduction of safe, effective and free COVID-19 vaccines that have helped contain the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they remain the best way to protect your family, friends, colleagues and yourself.

In recent weeks, the Delta variant has rapidly become the most common form of the virus in Ohio – and across the nation. The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous versions of the virus, causes infected patients to have substantially higher amounts of the virus in their system, and can be transmitted to others even by fully vaccinated people who contract the virus. Therefore, we are updating our mask protocols to enhance the health and safety of our campus community as well as to reflect updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Effective immediately, students, faculty, staff and visitors to all Ohio State campuses and medical facilities are required to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Masks continue to be required outdoors for unvaccinated individuals when they cannot maintain physical distancing. Vaccinated people are not required to mask outdoors.

Throughout the pandemic, Ohio State has adapted its actions based on new information and expertise from local, state and federal health officials as well as our own medical and public health experts. We will continue to follow this approach as we prepare for a robust, in-person experience in the upcoming academic year.

In addition to masking, the best way to prepare for Autumn semester is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. More than 73% of the Ohio State community is completely vaccinated. I know we can do even better – and to continue to combat this pandemic, we must do better. The vaccines have proven to be exceptionally effective at preventing serious illness and death, even when people contract the Delta variant. I urge everyone who can be vaccinated to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment as soon as possible.

As a reminder, all students, faculty and staff are required to report their vaccination status to the university by this Thursday, August 5. This data will inform our public health decisions, including when and whether we can consider easing requirements such as the testing requirements for students that were announced last week and the mask requirements I am sharing today.

Students, faculty and staff who are vaccinated and have reported their status can also enter the vaccination prize drawing for a chance at $50,000 in prizes. The first drawing will take place next week, with winners announced August 12.

I can’t wait to see everyone on campus this month – classes start August 24!

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD

President

Franklin County is among the counties listed by the CDC as having substantial spread of COVID-19.

The CDC recommends that everyone wear masks indoors in public areas where there are substantial or high community transmission rates of COVID-19.