Municipality Mask Order Consideration Statement

September 8, 2021

Just over a month ago, Franklin County Public Health issued an advisory urging everyone to wear a mask indoors and in crowded areas regardless of vaccine status until further notice. The advisory followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance for an area with substantial or high community spread of COVID-19. To facilitate and maximize keeping our students safe in the classroom, while also minimizing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, a few weeks later FCPH strongly recommended schools follow CDC guidance and adopt universal masking policies for all students, teachers and staff regardless of their vaccination status.

Both the community advisory and school guidance was offered in early August when Franklin County was experiencing case rates approaching 100/100,000 (high incidence) and the number of individuals hospitalized in Franklin County was less than 100. Now, just one month later, 7-day case rates in Franklin County are at 273/100,000 and we have reached 400 people in our local hospitals. If we want to keep our schools and workplaces open and more of our residents from getting COVID-19, we must do more in two areas: vaccinations and masking.

First is vaccination. Franklin County residents: 57% have started and 53% have completed their vaccinations. Though higher than the state average, there are thousands of our neighbors and family members who remain unvaccinated. These individuals remain at great risk of severe illness and health outcomes as we continue to see the overwhelming majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. We urge everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as they can. Vaccinations are readily available from Franklin County Public Health, Columbus Public Health, local pharmacies, hospitals, and community health centers.

Second is masking. We applaud all who wear masks in public, social settings and in their places of employment. Now is the time for all of us to mask when around others who live outside of your family regardless of your vaccination status. So in addition to reaffirming our mask advisory for residents and school guidance, Franklin County Public Health is now asking all cities and home-rule townships consider executive or legislative action to require masking of everyone in public places, workplaces, restaurants, grocery stores, and other indoor community settings. Public health does not have the authority to issue mask orders like last year because of the passage of Senate Bill 22.

We simply must reverse the trends here in our community. For the nurses, respiratory therapists, doctors, and other healthcare providers caring for our residents, and on behalf of our public health nurses, epidemiologists, health educators, environmental health professionals, and other staff working every day to in response to the pandemic, now is the time for our community to continue to stay together, support each other and take these important steps.