Franklin County Commissioners encourage more communities to require masks

Franklin County

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Some Central Ohio leaders say mask, vaccine and testing mandates are a necessary next step in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Before Columbus, Bexley and Whitehall instituted their own indoor mask requirements, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) was requiring guests and employees to cover their faces inside county buildings, like the courthouse. The Board does not hold the authority to enforce a county-wide mask mandate, but commissioners recently passed a resolution calling for other communities to roll out their own requirements.

“From our standpoint, we’ll continue to encourage masks, we’ll continue to encourage social distancing and good hygienic practices, so forth and so on, to protect not just our most vulnerable residents, but everyone,” explained BOC president Kevin Boyce.

Boyce pointed to rising case numbers and hospitalizations to justify the mandates. It was a sentiment echoed when the BOC announced it was requiring all of its 1,400 employees to show proof of vaccination by October 18 or submit to twice weekly testing.

“The best defense is to not get the virus,” said Boyce. “And so all of these measures are designed to protect our residents the best we can. And it starts with our employees. We can control that in this facility.”

Each county department headed by an elected official can enact policies for its own employees. In August, Franklin County Recorder Daniel O’Connor announced the first such policy. Similar to BOC workers, the Recorder’s roughly 46 employees are also required to be tested twice per week if they haven’t received the shot. Testing started on September 7 for those who were not yet partially or fully vaccinated.

A memo from the Recorder’s office detailed disciplinary measures for failing to comply with the policy. It said employees who fail to show proof of vaccination or submit to testing will receive an initial verbal warning, followed by a written warning, and a third offense could result in a pre-termination hearing.

Similar requirements have triggered outrage around the country. Boyce acknowledged mandates may upset certain groups or individuals, but he said they’re in public’s best interest.

“That’s always the case when you take actions that are designed to protect the masses, but I would encourage anyone to take a look at current CDC data around the trajectory around the virus,” he explained.

Tuesday morning, Boyce said there was no word from other communities in Franklin County considering their own mask mandates.

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