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Columbus, Franklin County health officials issue mask advisories as COVID cases rise

Health officials issued a mask advisory Friday urging everyone to wear a mask indoors and in crowded areas regardless of vaccine status.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health on Friday issued mask advisories, urging everyone to wear a mask inside public buildings and in crowded areas.

The advisories will be in effect until further notice and apply to everyone regardless of their vaccination status. CPH emphasized that the advisories are not a mandate. 

The announcement comes after new data on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 tracking map showed that transmission in Franklin County is high. 

The current case rate for the county is 214 per 100,000 and new hospital admissions are 10.7% with 3.7% of patients in hospital beds being diagnosed with COVID-19. 

On Thursday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 26,610 new COVID-19 cases and 690 hospitalizations statewide. 

According to CPH, the mask advisories follow the CDC's guidance for an area with a high community spread of COVID-19. 

“Protecting ourselves and our community from COVID-19 takes a multi-layered approach,” said Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted. Wearing a mask and testing if you’re sick also will help slow down the spread.”

Health officials warned that two new highly transmissible variants are spreading quickly nationwide.

The variants, named BA.4 and BA.5, stem from the omicron strain of COVID-19 that has been responsible for nearly all of the virus spread in the country and are even more contagious than previous ones.

Health officials said the variants have the ability to get around the protection and immunity from infection and vaccination.

ODH has labeled the two variants as variants of concern. As of July 2, BA. 4 makes up for 10.69% of state cases and BA.5 makes up 45.80%.

The most common symptoms with the new variants mimic the common, with patients experiencing sore throats and runny noses. A significant change in symptoms for the subvariants is heightened amounts of sneezing, something health officials have not seen in earlier forms of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

Franklin County Public Health encourages residents to get tested if experiencing symptoms and to be up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. 

CPH offers walk-in appointments Monday through Friday for people wanting to get a COVID-19 vaccine or boosters.

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