The city of Columbus is issuing a "stay at home" advisory starting Friday, urging residents to avoid inessential activities in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Beginning Friday evening, residents of Columbus and Franklin County are being told to stay at home for 28 days unless doing an essential activity – such as going to work or school, running errands like picking up food, groceries or medicine, or receiving medical care.
The advisory also asks people to forgo "having guests in their homes during the upcoming holiday season" and avoid traveling in and out of the state.
“Do not have gatherings at your home, and do not attend them at other homes,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther at a Wednesday press conference. “Keep your contact to your immediate household as much as possible. And yes, that means for Thanksgiving.”
Unlike Ohio's "stay at home" order, which was lifted in May, the city's move is more of a recommendation than a requirement.
City and county officials stressed that the advisory complements, not replaces, state orders. It reiterates that gatherings should be limited to 10 people or less, people should wear face masks in public, and employees should work from home if possible.
Franklin County commissioner John O’Grady said the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in recent months makes the new measure necessary.
“Statewide, we had 1,033 cases on September 16, 2,140 new cases on October 16. And then on November 16, 7,268 new cases,” O’Grady said. “That means not only are the numbers going up, but they’re going up at a faster and faster rate.”
Ginther likens the measure to a winter storm warning.
“What we do in the days and weeks to come will determine how long this storm, COVID-19, will last in Columbus and Franklin County," Ginther said.
Public Health commissioner Mysheika Roberts said the progress made during the 28-day advisory will influence city and county leaders to either keep things as they are or take further action.
“I think that we here in Franklin County have shown, we ask individuals to step up, we ask people to voluntarily make these adjustments,” Roberts said. “And if we don’t see the improvement we need to see in our cases in our community, we then take another step.”
Beginning on Friday, November 20 at 6 p.m., Columbus Public Health and @FC_PublicHealth are advising all residents of Columbus and Franklin County to stay at home to protect health and prevent the spread of #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/mZ6BcmMusD
— Columbus Health (@ColumbusHealth) November 18, 2020
On Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, and Dayton and Montgomery County, announced stay-at-home advisories of their own. Those advisories takes effect immediately, lasts through December 17, and similarly advises residents to remain home except for essential activities.
"Residents of Montgomery County are advised to limit holiday celebrations this year to people in your immediate household and not risk gathering with others," the Dayton advisory reads. "Traveling, hosting guests indoors, and sharing food, utensils and plates all pose significant risks. Traditional private gatherings with family and friends can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19."
In addition, the advisories say residents should not have guests in their homes unless they're performing essential work or repairs, such as electrical, plumbing or heating.
Franklin County is currently ranked level three "red" on Ohio's Public Health Advisory map, indicating serious spread of COVID-19, and is at risk of being elevated this week to "purple" – the highest level of severity. Over the last two weeks, the county has reported 419 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people.
On Tuesday, several hospital systems in the area – Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, Ohio Health and Mount Carmel – took the step of banning inpatient and emergency room visitors, as they had done when the pandemic first took off in the spring.
The advisory follows Gov. Mike DeWine's Tuesday announcement of a three-week-long statewide curfew between 10 p.m.-5 a.m.. That curfew – which has exemptions for groceries, pharmacies, emergency trips, and takeout and delivery food – takes effect on Thursday.