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Columbus mask mandate expected to be lifted Monday

A sign that reads "Notice: Face Mask Required"
Matt Rourke
A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus is posted on a store front in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. Philadelphia city officials have lifted its vaccine mandate for indoor dining and other establishments that serve food and drinks, but an indoor mask mandate remains in place. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Columbus City Council plans to vote Monday to lift the mask mandate that now requires everyone to wear masks in indoor public places.

But one local infectious disease doctor said although the COVID-19 pandemic is moving in the right direction, our battle with the deadly disease is not over yet.

Ohio Health Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, who specializes in infectious disease, said COVID numbers are down significantly in the central Ohio area, but we still need to be careful as we shed the masks. He said this is still not the time to throw caution to the wind.

“I have seen so much pain and suffering and illness from this virus, My concern moving forward is with a de-escalation of the masks of the general public will feel that the virus is gone, it's not gone,“ he said.

Dr. Gastaldo said the good news is the pandemic is in a different place than last year due to the availability of vaccines and other resources that can to keep people from getting very sick. However, the Ohio Health physician said he expects another COVID variant to come on the scene.

“The next letter in the Greek alphabet is pi, there will be a pi variant. And when we hear about the pi variants, not necessarily a cause for alarm, because we have more infrastructure in place to really identify the variants, said Dr. Gastaldo who has been practicing medicine for 20 years.

He said for now the news is good.

“Recently, the CDC did change their public masking recommendations for the public, and they basically come out with a color code system. And Franklin County today we are medium. If you have an at-risk condition, regardless of your medical status, you should talk to your healthcare provider about recommendations individually for you on mask wearing indoors in public,“ he said.

Williams was a reporter for WOSU. Natasha is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and has more than 20 years of television news and radio experience.