On the evening of February 22, 2022, after discussion with City Council during its regularly scheduled meeting, the executive orders relative to the COVID-19 pandemic were amended to eliminate the City’s mask mandate as well as most of the elements of the previous orders. These changes go into effect immediately, and impact mask mandates in indoor public spaces in the City. Businesses and institutions continue to be free to require the wearing of masks in public spaces, at their own discretion. Businesses may not prohibit individuals from wearing masks, in order to protect the rights of individuals to wear masks to protect their own health.
At the Council meeting, hospitalization and case count figures were discussed. In early September, when the mask mandate was put into place, amidst a climbing delta variant wave, hospitalizations were on the rise and we were facing a formidable increase in case counts and pressure on hospital bed availability. Along with Columbus, Whitehall, and the City of Worthington, we instituted a mask mandate in keeping with recommendations from the CDC and Franklin County Public Health.
Fast forward to today: we have now seemingly passed the peak of the omicron variant and as case counts drop precipitously throughout our region, we sit below both hospitalization and case count rates as compared to September, 2021; children age 5-11 now have access to the vaccine who did not at that time; and the predominant omicron variant is less severe (albeit more infectious) than its delta counterpart. At the time we instituted the mask mandate we committed to following the guidance of public health authorities. Public health authorities around the country have recognized the lower risk from omicron, particularly in the face of mass vaccination and increasing public immunity, and restrictions around the country are lessening. Additionally, the City has invested in KN-95 masks to provide free of charge to the community, in order to help provide additional protections to immuno-compromised individuals. The time has come to release the mask mandate, and this is a thing to celebrate.
I’m hopeful that we are close to the end of what has been a very challenging and trying several years. But I also know that, should a new variant or new conditions emerge that requires action on our part again, we will be there to meet the challenge, as a community grounded in mutual respect and care for all of those around us.
Mayor Ben Kessler