Columbus Public Health says new mask mandate unlikely as COVID-19 cases rise

Columbus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Health leaders are frustrated with the rising number of COVID-19 cases across Ohio.

Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said she fully supports new recommendations announced Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The Ohio Department of Health reported more than 1,300 new cases Tuesday, the state’s highest number of cases since mid May.

As case numbers rise across the country and in the state due to the delta variant, the CDC wants people to mask up more often, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The CDC is also recommending masks in schools for everyone and people in areas where there is substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 should wear masks in public indoor settings.

“It’s scary,” said Columbus resident Birdie Brennan. “It’s scary when we see those numbers growing again. We don’t want to go back to where we were last year.”

CDC data shows Columbus is in the yellow level for spread, meaning there is moderate transmission of the disease. Roberts said that data is a couple of days old and that based on the data she has, Franklin County could turn orange, or substantial spread, very soon.

“It feels like Groundhog Day,” Roberts said. “Here we go again with these high numbers. I think what we heard today loud and clear from CDE is that the delta variant is a game changer.”

Should Franklin County reach that orange level, Roberts said the CDC’s new recommendations will apply for the county.

“I think with the growing numbers, you’re going to have to do something,” said Columbus resident John Brennan.

“I would encourage people to do their best to wear masks when they are out in public,” Roberts said. “It’s not a mandate, it’s a recommendation, one I highly recommend.”

She added that it’s unlikely a mask mandate will be reissued by the county or the state.

“I would encourage people to follow recommendations of CDC and Columbus Public Health,” Roberts said. “I don’t foresee mandates coming from the local health department or our state department anytime soon and a lot of that has to do with Senate Bill 22.”

The legislation Roberts is referring to allows the General Assembly to strike down any health order issued by the Ohio Department of Health.

Roberts hopes we don’t have to ride this wave for long, but that will depend on if people follow the CDC recommendations and if more people get vaccinated.

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