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Columbus Officials Issue Warning As Coronavirus Hospitalizations Surge

Mayor Andrew Ginther at a press conference on October 26.
Nick Evans
Mayor Andrew Ginther at a press conference on October 26.

With COVID-19 cases surging around Ohio, Columbus leaders are urging people to stay home and limit social gatherings. 

In Franklin County, coronavirus hospitalizations have risen by more than 70% over just last month, when they were at a low. Other regions are seeing triple-digit increases.

Mayor Andrew Ginther said Monday that the return of fall football is not behind the increase, but he warned against getting together to watch the game.

“We have to recommit to doing things differently,” Ginther says. “And I think this is a very critical time, not just with Ohio State football coming back, but with Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner, people need to plan differently.”

Ginther says on game day he was “where I belonged—at home with my family,” that he’ll be doing the same this Saturday as well. He asked residents to follow suit.

Columbus Public Health officials said they checked 116 establishments for coronavirus guideline compliance on Saturday, but those inspections resulted in only two warnings. When it comes to large gatherings at private homes, Columbus health commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts says there’s little they can do.

“That’s a big challenge for all of us, whether we’re in public health, government or any other aspect,” Roberts says. “What you do in your private property is really up to you. But we will continue to work with our community partners, our businesses as well as the university moving forward.”

Many have justified gatherings because they are outside, but Roberts insists the virus can still be spread outdoors. Even if you’re outside, she says, it’s important to maintain distance and wear a mask.

The mayor and health commissioner both acknowledged many are tired of the precautions tied to COVID-19, but urged residents to stay vigilant about masking, social distancing and hand washing.

“We must use every tool, every tool that we have at our disposal to fight this virus to get our numbers to go in the downward trend again,” Roberts says. “I know many of us have COVID fatigue, but we cannot give up and become complacent to this virus”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.