COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As COVID-19 cases slowly tick up in Ohio, Capital University was the first notable institution out of the gate to restore a mask mandate.
“Beginning immediately, the University is requiring masks to be worn by everyone when inside University buildings,” Capital announced Sunday for the rest of the semester.
Capital said it was responding to an increase in cases at the university and across Ohio over the past few weeks. As NBC4 reported last Thursday when the Ohio Department of Health released its weekly numbers, cases have risen 122% from 3,103 three weeks ago to 6,890 last week.
State and local health authorities tracking COVID-19 data are aware of the uptick in cases, and they say it was expected.
“We are not surprised by the recent increase in cases following rolling spring breaks and recent holidays,” Kelli Newman, spokesperson for Columbus Public Health, said in a statement Monday.
New cases in Franklin County have risen 90% compared to three weeks ago, per ODH data, from 498 to 948 last week. Columbus lifted its mask mandate in early March under CPH’s recommendation.
“Masks are an effective tool, and organizations may require them if they choose,” Newman said, adding the health department encourages anyone “who feels more comfortable wearing a mask to continue doing so.”
ODH, Vanderhoff put numbers in context
Although COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in the past three weeks, they are still fractions of what Ohio saw earlier this year.
When the omicron variant was at its peak around New Year’s, Ohio regularly saw 100,000 cases a week. And as recently as mid-February, Ohio saw more than 22,000 cases in a week.
Likewise, all 88 counties remain green — the lowest level — on the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 community map, which takes into account the risk of hospitalization more than case counts. At green, CDC guidance is that only people who may have COVID-19 should mask up.
“We will continue to keep an eye on these numbers, but we fully expected that we might see a modest increase in cases,” ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderoff said in a statement. “Fortunately, we are not seeing significant increases in severe disease.”
COVID-19 deaths have dropped 24 percent in Ohio in the past two weeks, and hospitalizations haven’t seen a consistent increase.
The state health department also noted this current increase is part of the pandemic transitioning into an endemic disease, one that ebbs and flows but can be dealt with.
“And it remains true that those who are vaccinated and boosted have proved to be well-protected against serious illness,” ODH said.