FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new system for determining what COVID safety measures to use in counties across the nation.
It's a color-coded system with three levels: green, yellow and orange. Masking is recommended only in the orange areas and that applies to schools.
Essentially the CDC is recommending masking for high-risk communities. And in Ohio, we have areas in the green, yellow, and orange.
The level is determined based on the number of new COVID cases and hospitalizations.
Franklin County, where Columbus is located, falls into the CDC's new yellow category. Yellow means those who are at a high risk for severe illness should talk to their doctor about whether they need to wear a mask and take other precautions.
A mask mandate remains in place for Columbus.
And local business owners say while safety is a top priority, they are eager to welcome more diners back now that cases are down.
Some say now that cases are down, lifting some restrictions would be welcomed news.
“I think as they continue to go down and as we continue to listen to the health professionals and really watch those numbers as a business I feel like that enforcement becomes a little more tiresome for an already exhausted community that works in the food and beverage industry,” said Corey Schloser, Senior Manager of Wolf's Ridge.
"After two years, so we're seeing some more indoor dining, carryout sales are still higher than they were prior to COVID. But, you know, we're still digging out of that hole after two years of a pretty rocky ride,” said Chris Crader, the CEO of Harvest Pizzeria.
Case numbers are down in central Ohio, hospitalizations are too.
Infectious disease experts like Dr. Mark Herbert from Mount Carmel say preventing transmission of the virus is still important.
"I think it's just important to recognize that the decrease rates in the community are because of all the public health measures that we've had in place,” said Dr. Herbert. “So this is not yet the time to relax public health measures."
Nothing has changed regarding the federal mask mandate for transportation.
That requirement for now is in place through March 18.