COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Council voted unanimously to rescind the city's mask mandate, with Mayor Andrew Ginther quickly signing the ordinance on Monday.
“The situation has changed and we are in a new phase of the pandemic. I bring legislation forward tonight because I think it is the right time,” said Councilmember Shayla Favor.
The vote comes a week after Columbus Public Health recommended city leaders wait until March 7 to end the mandate. The city passed the ordinance in September 2021 when the delta variant was spreading and increasing COVID-19 cases.
Last week, while CPH Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the pandemic is not over, the city is in a new phase of the pandemic. She added it’s time to focus on minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on our healthcare systems and our community while focusing our efforts on protecting those who are most at risk of severe illness.”
The move to no longer require masks in the city aligns with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which most healthy Americans no longer need to mask up.
City Council in Worthington is also scheduled to vote on rescinding its mask ordinance Monday.
Currently, Franklin County falls into the medium level of community transmission, according to calculations from the CDC, which states masks are not required for counties in that category.
Part of the CDC guidance also included school children no longer needing to wear masks. Students and staff at Columbus City Schools will not be required to wear masks starting Tuesday. Worthington dropped its mask requirement last week.
Businesses will be allowed to require masks to be worn if they wish.
Even though the mask mandate is lifted in Columbus, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) said masks are still required on public transportation due to a federal requirement from the Transportation Safety Administration. The requirement is scheduled to end March 18.
Mayor Ginther released a statement about rescinding the mandate:
“I am proud of Columbus residents who fought so hard for so long to beat back COVID-19 in our community,” Mayor Ginther said. “We are encouraged by the declining number of cases and that the burden on our health care professionals and frontline workers has been greatly reduced. Some in our community – including those who are not vaccinated or are immunocompromised – may still want to wear a mask in public, but as of today, that is their personal choice. I implore residents to, above all else, be kind to each other as we navigate the next phase of the pandemic, and to utilize common sense to keep each other healthy – wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick and get vaccinated and boosted. Together, we can put COVID-19 behind us. Our best days are still ahead.”
Timeline of mask mandates in Ohio:
Governor Mike DeWine issued the state's first-ever mask mandate in April of 2020, changing his mind one day later.
"People looked at this and they said 'That's one government mandate too far,'" DeWine said at the time.
That July, state officials issued a county-based mask mandate determined by risk levels. Two weeks later, the entire state was ordered to wear masks. That mandate lasted nearly one year before DeWine declared its end in May 2021.
Following an end to the statewide mandate, county, city and school leaders were tasked with putting mandates in place.
Columbus City Council passed an ordinance on Sept. 13, 2021, requiring both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks. At the time, Franklin County was averaging 493 cases per day.