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Columbus to Require Masks in Indoor Public Spaces

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Columbus to Require Masks in Indoor Public SpacesPhoto by Polina Tankilevitch.
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Mayor Andrew Ginther announced on Wednesday, Sept. 8 during a press conference that he would be issuing an executive order requiring all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.

The executive order will be virtually the same as one issued last year, including enforcement. The order is in effect starting Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, until the order’s Proclamation of Emergency is lifted, or the order is superseded by Columbus City Council.

Exemptions to the order include children five and younger; individuals with medical or behavioral conditions that preclude them from wearing a face-covering; and individuals actively eating and drinking, engaged in sports and recreational activities and giving a speech or performance before a live audience.

View the executive order in full here.

Alongside an executive order from Ginther will be legislation brought forward by City Council, which will return to chambers on Monday, Sept. 13.

“You did it before, you can do it again,” he said. “We need to mask up, band together, and bring down the number of infections and hospitalizations. We cannot be discouraged or deterred.”

Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health Commissioner, said last week alone Columbus’ case numbers were up 37% from the previous week, at about 2,500 cases. There is a 9.6% positivity rate, nearly a rate not seen since last November.

She said individuals should be mindful about avoiding mass gatherings, especially indoors, and social distancing.

“Trying to stay at least six feet apart, but if you have that mask on we can get down to three feet apart,” she said. “We have to use every tool we have in the toolbox to help us combat this pandemic.”

Ginther emphasized wearing face masks and getting vaccinated to keep schools and the economy open, and not overwhelming health care workers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Ginther said, officials worried about the number of hospital beds available for the influx of new patients. Now, the concern is over the number of hospital and health care workers available, who have spent a year and a half on the frontlines.

Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief medical officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, put the number of health care workers down, at a Central Ohio hospital for instance, in the hundreds.

He said COVID-19 case numbers continue to grow quickly, with cases in the Central Ohio, south central Ohio and southeastern Ohio regions approaching December 2020 numbers.

On Aug. 1, the region saw 150 patients in the hospital with COVID-19. On Monday, Sept. 6 it saw over 900 patients.

He said one in six patients in the hospital are there because they have COVID-19, up from one in 31 last month. One in four patients in the ICU are COVID-19 patients, up from one in 17. And one in three patients on a ventilator are COVID-19 patients, up from one in 10.

The Ohio State University game scheduled this Saturday prompted questions from reporters, suggesting the game may become a “superspreader” event. Health officials said the university was taking the necessary precautions to have as safe an event as possible.

The university announced last month it would require visitors to all university campuses and medical facilities to wear masks indoors, with unvaccinated individuals required to do so outdoors when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Dr. Roberts said over 15% of new cases last week were among children 11 and younger, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Dr. Rustin Morse, chief medical officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said 25 children at the hospital are positive for COVID-19, 22 of which are symptomatic. 10 children are in intensive care and five are on breathing tubes, he said.

He emphasized children shouldn’t come to Nationwide just for testing, as not to overwhelm health care workers.

Only 46% of Columbus residents are fully vaccinated, said Dr. Roberts. A city incentive program promising $100 for individuals who get vaccinated will end this week, but will likely be extended, she said.

For more information on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

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