COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Nearly two months have passed since Columbus councilmembers passed the city’s current mask mandate, signed into ordinance by Mayor Andrew Ginther on Sept. 14.

But COVID-19 cases have been steadily declining for more than a month as the Delta variant wave continues to turn downward. Since peaking on Sept. 21, the two-week onset case average in Franklin County has dropped from 600.57 cases to 227.57 as of Thursday.

“Cases are trending in the right direction, but community transmission remains high,” Columbus Public Health spokesperson Kelli Newman told NBC4.

City leaders have been deferring to guidance from CPH, which is tracking specific coronavirus data to determine when the mandate should be lifted. The health department’s mask recommendations are based on the federal Centers for Disease Control’s color-coded map of the coronavirus’ spread throughout every U.S. county.

“Our recommendation for the mask order was that we need to be in CDC’s yellow category for moderate community transmission for four consecutive weeks,” Newman said.

As of Thursday afternoon, every Ohio county remains red on the map – the CDC’s highest category – something that hasn’t changed since Sept. 3.

More than 73% of U.S. counties are at a “high” level of community transmission (red). About 17% are “substantial” (orange), 7.64% are “moderate” (yellow) and 2.2% are “low” (blue). All of Michigan and West Virginia are red, and only a handful of counties in Ohio’s other neighboring states Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana are orange or yellow.

The CDC’s color levels rely on two metrics over the past seven days: new cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive NAAT tests (the traditional swab tests, also known as PCR tests).

For Franklin County to drop two levels from red to yellow, its cases per 100,000 people need to drop below 50, and the percentage of tests that are positive needs to drop below 8%.

But in the past week (Oct. 27-Nov. 2 for case rate and Oct. 25-Oct. 31 for test positivity), CDC data shows COVID-19 has much more declining to do in Franklin County before Ohio’s largest county turns yellow.

As of Thursday afternoon, Franklin County is seeing 136.17 new cases per 100,000 people, far above the goal of 50. That is a decrease of 13.34% over the previous week, however, which shows the metric is improving.

Test positivity is already below the 8% goal, as just 5.57% of swab tests in Franklin County last Monday-Sunday came out positive. That’s a 0.48% increase over the previous week but still where it needs to be for the county to go yellow.

Franklin County has been under 8% test positivity for about three straight weeks, still just shy of the four straight weeks to meet CPH’s goal. But even when that threshold is met, new cases will likely have yet to drop below 50 per 100,000, where they will also need to stay for four straight weeks.

Columbus’ mask mandate requires any resident over 3 years old – regardless of vaccination status – to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces. The ordinance follows the original one passed in July 2020, but it added a regular 30-day check-in window for CPH to report changes in COVID-19 to city council.

People who don’t comply will first be given a warning, then fined $100 by CPH for a second violation and $250 for each subsequent violation. Businesses that don’t comply will also be warned on first offense but will be fined $500 for a second violation and then $1,000 for each violation after that.

The mandate is in place until city council lifts it or Ginther rescinds the city’s current emergency proclamation.