COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and his administration are looking to end the mask order in the Capital City.
Dr. Mysheika Roberts, health commissioner for Columbus Public Health, said this is so the rules here in the city are consistent with the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health.
The request is not on city council’s Monday agenda yet, but it is possible it can be discussed, and possibly voted on, by this Monday, May 24.
Roberts is still encouraging people to wear masks indoors or when they are in crowds.
She notes many children are still not able to get the vaccine and about 60 percent of Franklin County is not vaccinated yet, plus the county is still red on the state’s health advisory map.
Roberts said wearing a mask is the right thing to do and hopes people don’t need an order to do that. While the request looks to get rid of the order, she said the county and the country are not yet in a position where she can stop encouraging people to wear masks in certain situations.
“We’re not there as a community, we’re not there as a state, and we’re definitely not there as a nation,” Roberts said. “We are still in the midst of this pandemic. This fight is still on and we have many vulnerable people in our community that need to be protected.”
Some residents think the CDC is moving too fast with the repeal of the mask order.
“In general, I think, as a country, we’ve moved a little too fast for that,” said Stephen Kanzlemar, of Columbus. “I don’t think our caseloads are down where it needs to be to get rid of it.”
While the city is looking to take this step, Ginther and Roberts are reminding those who have not been vaccinated yet to do so if they can.
“I think we’ve been careful for quiet a while now,” said Columbus resident Cameron Herron. “I mean, there’s still certain instances where we should maybe wear them, but for the most part, I think I’m ready to take mine off and as long as people are still responsible and respectful of each other, yeah, I’m alright with it.”
The full statement released by Ginther’s office and Columbus Public Health is below:
As we continue to adjust to the new CDC guidance on mask wearing for fully vaccinated people, Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts emphasizes that the pandemic is not over.
“Franklin County remains at a red alert level, and disease activity remains high in our community,” Dr. Roberts said. “Currently, only 40% of Franklin County residents are fully vaccinated.”
Dr. Roberts advises residents who are not vaccinated to get the vaccine as soon as possible and to continue to wear a mask especially when indoors. Those with a medical reason that prevents them from getting the vaccine, should work with their healthcare providers to determine when they can get vaccinated.
Dr. Roberts recommends those who are fully vaccinated to consider their personal situation and the risk to family, friends and community before completely abandoning their masks. With relatively high COVID activity in Columbus, fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear a mask as appropriate in crowds. Everyone – vaccinated or not – also should continue to wash their hands frequently and stay home if they are sick.
“We have come so far in our fight against COVID-19 because of the diligence of our residents,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “The end of the pandemic is in sight, and with continued use of the common sense measures we have been using for the last 14 months, we can all return to normal soon. The best tool we have is the vaccine. Until you can get it, please continue to wear a mask and avoid crowds.”
To align with new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) guidance, the administration is asking Columbus City Council to repeal its local mask order. However, those who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect their health.