When can we safely take our masks off now that COVID-19 cases are declining in Cleveland?
COVID-19 cases are drastically lower in Cuyahoga County compared with the record-breaking surge the area saw over the holidays, but that doesn't mean we can take our masks off yet.
Masks aren’t mandated in Ohio, but many people are wearing them to reduce their risk of spreading COVID-19.
Even though case numbers are down from their omicron peak, all of Ohio’s counties continue to have high rates of community transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We may see lower transmission rates in the spring or summer, said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease doctor at OhioHealth in Columbus.
“We’re not at that point yet. We still have high levels of community transmission in the state of Ohio," Gastaldo said at an Ohio Department of Health news conference on Friday.
Once we see lower community transmission rates, Gastaldo says that’s when healthy and fully vaccinated people could safely take masks off.
"Let's remember, we're still talking about high numbers in every part of the state. There is some risk, and therefore masking is something we are recommending," said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.
The answer for when to take off your mask will depend on your vaccination status, health risks, and the rate of community spread in your area, he said.
“At some point, we’ll be able to look and say, the combination of the trend of our case numbers and the trend of our hospitalizations is pointing toward not only decreases but likely very low rates of transmission of this virus," he said. "But frankly, I don’t think we’re there yet.”
There are some situations where you could safely take your mask off, Vanderhoff said. In outdoor settings, where people are healthy and fully vaccinated, it may be appropriate to not wear a mask, he said.