COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced Wednesday that he will issue an executive order to require face masks indoors in the city.
What You Need To Know
- The mask mandate will go into effect on Friday, Ginther said
- COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are surging in Columbus
- The city reported about 2,500 COVID-19 cases last week
The order goes into effect on Friday and applies to public venues, such as groceries, restaurants, theaters and shops.
The mayor said COVID-19 numbers are rising rapidly in the city necessitating stronger action from local government.
“It's not enough for us to thank our public health and health care workers — to put out hashtags and attaboys. We need to get vaccinated, and we need to wear our masks,” he said.
He made the announcement during a press conference at the Columbus Public Health building, where he was joined by Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts and local hospital officials.
Ginther said the strain from COVID-19 on the area’s hospitals has reached a breaking point.
“This is about ensuring that if you need emergency medical care for COVID-19 or another injury or illness, there's a doctor, a nurse, a specialist, a qualified and experienced caretaker available to administer your treatment,” he said.
Ginther said his administration will work with Columbus City Council to get a mask mandate enacted by ordinance. He said he was hopeful that would happen next week.
At an Aug. 5 press conference, Roberts said the health department wasn't able to issue a mask mandate because of a new piece of state legislation, Senate Bill 22.
Several small Ohio cities have issued mask mandates through their councils.
Ginther said he anticipates that the mask mandate could face a legal challenge, which is why city officials are pursuing the ordinance in addition to the executive order.
The mask mandate will include an exception for strenuous indoor physical activity at gyms and fitness centers. Residents will have to wear masks when they are not actively exercising.
The city reported about 2,500 COVID-19 cases last week, a 37% increase from the previous week, Roberts said. While 53% of Franklin County is fully vaccinated, the rate is only 46% for Columbus residents, she said.
According to Dr. Andrew Thomas, Ohio State Wexner’s chief clinical officer, more than 900 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday in Zone 2 of the state, which includes central and southern Ohio. Last winter, the peak was 1,200.
Thomas, who leads the coronavirus response for Zone 2 hospitals, said it’s concerning how quickly the patient numbers are rising. On Aug. 1, there were only 150 patients hospitalized in the region.
“The tone of voice I'm hearing from our regional hospital leaders that I connect with on a routine basis is more than just anxious. It's more than just concerned,” he said. “Until we start to see new COVID cases plateauing and coming down, we expect hospitalizations to continue to increase, and these trends are simply not sustainable.”