Local health officials have given the green light for residents to hold and attend yard, garage and rummage sales, although they continue to urge caution as retailers and other businesses begin reopening to the public during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Franklin County Public Health has issued updated guidance for those selling and those buying. It is a change from a few weeks ago, when the agency ranked such sales among nonessential businesses and activities (and, thus, barred them under earlier state orders).

Despite the change, county health director Joe Mazzola said his message remains the same because the pandemic remains: "Just because it's open doesn't mean you have to go."

As defined by state law, Franklin County Public Health provides service to all townships and villages in Franklin County. In addition, 14 cities in Franklin and Fairfield counties contract with the agency to serve as their health department and provide comprehensive public-health services to residents.

Those communities include Bexley, Canal Winchester, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Groveport, Hilliard, New Albany, Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Whitehall. The agency supplies only plumbing-oversight services to the city of Worthington.

The health department has been scrambling in recent weeks to update guidance and help residents and businesses deal with evolving public policies related to the pandemic.

Mazzola and others have briefed Franklin County officials on changes during daily administrative briefings, as the state allows more access to retailers and other public locations.

The message from health department officials has remained the same throughout the pandemic: Stay home when you can; wear masks and wash/sanitize your hands when out in public; and remain vigilant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Yes, we are reopening, and these announcements are being made," Mazzola said, "but we need to be cautious and we need to continue to send that message to the community."

On the garage sale front, Franklin County Public Health is asking sellers to space tables 6 feet part, encourage customers to maintain healthy social distancing from one another and have shoppers bring their own bags.

Tables and merchandise should be washed before sales, and tables and chairs should be disinfected a couple of times each day.

Additionally, trash cans should be available to allow shoppers to dispose of gloves and masks and sellers should consider having sanitizer on hand for customers.

For shoppers, the health department urges the wearing of masks, shopping alone if possible and being considerate to other people who are out and about.

"We've never had to do this before," Mazzola said concerning the guidance on garage sales. "... That's one thing about this pandemic: There's been a lot of things that we've never had to think about before."