COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Health leaders throughout central Ohio have issued an indoor mask advisory for Columbus and Franklin County.

At a news conference Thursday morning, health officials said they are issuing the advisory due to the worsening number of COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant and vaccination hesitation.

The advisory urges “everyone to wear a mask indoors and in crowded areas regardless of vaccine status until further notice,” a social media post from Columbus Public Health said. “The advisory follows [CDC] guidance for an area with substantial community spread of COVID-19.”

“Franklin County is now at a substantial transmission rate for COVID-19,”  said Franklin County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Joseph Mazzola. “Last week, we were at a moderate transmission rate.”

The substantial transmission rate designation means everyone should get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors, Mazzola said.

“Almost all of the patients who are hospitalized or who have died are unvaccinated,” he said.

Mazzola was joined by Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts and several leaders with the area hospital systems.  

One health professional told the story of a local 28-year old man who was unvaccinated and is currently hospitalized in critical condition. She said the patient now wishes he had gotten the vaccine.

“What makes this so heartbreaking for the family is his vaccination status and the fact this could have been prevented,” said Dr. Veena Satyapriya of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “With a 28-year old vaccinated person — we wouldn’t be here having this conversation about him.”

The patient’s family is encouraging community members to get vaccinated immediately.

Our lives have been turned upside down with questions like, ‘will he make it through the night?’ Both of us are young, so we didn’t see the urgency of getting vaccinated. We were not prepared with how sick he would get so fast.

Statement from 28-year old patient’s wife

Dr. Rustin Moore of Nationwide Children’s Hospital addressed the safety of children as school gets underway, saying local pediatric units are filled to capacity.

“As we head into school year, there is debate on whether to mask or vaccinate,” he said. “Since children under 12 aren’t able to be vaccinated, the only way they can be protected is if we as adults get vaccinated and that we — and they — are masked. If we do not do that, we run the risk of a situation like last year where schools start closing.”

Another doctor said the reason given when the gravely ill are asked why didn’t get vaccinated: “They just didn’t think it would happen to them,” she said.

Ohio saw more than 2,100 cases reported Wednesday, which was the most since April.