Last week, the city of Worthington joined a growing number of central Ohio communities that require the use of face coverings in public.
We want to walk residents through what we're doing to track and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, review its public health implications and make policy based on what we learn.
The actual decision to require face masks wasn't difficult. In light of Franklin County being designated as Level 3 on the four-level scale under the new state Public Health Advisory Alert System, something was needed to suppress the surge in new cases.
At Level 3, the Ohio Department of Health has determined exposure to and spread of the coronavirus are very high, and people are advised to limit activities as much as possible. Requiring masks is the most basic step we can take to help stop the spread without otherwise impacting businesses and other community activities.
The process to get to the Worthington City Council vote was more complicated.
We have a coronavirus working group that is reviewing data and speaking with public-health officials regularly. We also are watching what is happening in other communities -- especially Franklin County, in this case, because the advisory system is organized by county. Our task force meets regularly to hear from public-health officials, to discuss the coronavirus from an operational standpoint (police, fire, service departments) and to consider the current environment through the lens of economic development.
Our toolkit to help stop the spread of COVID-19 essentially is the same as what we've seen at the state level: social distancing, masks, asking people to limit trips outside their homes, asking those who can work from home to do so and -- as an extreme step -- closing down businesses. As Worthington seeks to promote our local businesses being open to all, the task force has sought solutions that balance the safety of the community, first responders and business owners with the need for our community to be open and operational.
The mask requirement fits within that framework. Businesses are open. Our community is on the rebound from the total shutdown.
Wearing masks is a low-impact solution we believe will help Franklin County flatten the curve of new cases as we all await a vaccine that will allow us all to move forward out of this pandemic.
In the meantime, please stay safe and mask up.
Matt Greeson is Worthington's city manager.