No mask mandate — for now
Mahoning officials: No discussion of returning to facial coverings
YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning County commissioners have no plans at this time to restore a mask wearing requirement at county buildings, despite Cuyahoga County having done so recently.
The office of Cuyahoga County’s executive cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placing Cuyahoga County in the “high” category for COVID-19 as at the reason for returning to a mask policy effective Aug. 1. The CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in counties in the “high” range regardless of vaccination status.
According to the CDC, the “high” category is based on the following data: new hospital admissions per 100,000 population in the last seven days; percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by patients with confirmed COVID-19 in the last seven days; and new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over the last seven days.
Cuyahoga County current numbers are 237 cases per day per 100,000 population; 15.1 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population; and 3.9 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19.
Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties are among the 66 counties in Ohio with high spread. Only 22 counties have medium or low spread, according to the CDC.
By comparison, those numbers for Mahoning County are 267.18 cases per day per 100,000 population; 23.3 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population; and 4.4 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19.
Trumbull County’s numbers are 270.74 cases per day per 100,000 population; 23.3 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population; and 4.4 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19.
Columbiana County’s numbers are 204.16 cases per day per 100,000 population; 11.8 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population; and 3.5 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19.
When asked about whether the commissioners had discussed returning to a mask requirement in county buildings, Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said they had not talked about it and no one had raised the issue with them.
“But if anyone feels they want to wear a mask, go ahead. Do whatever you feel comfortable with,” she said.
Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County health commissioner, said Tuesday the commissioners had not asked him whether he thought a renewed mask requirement is needed.
Tekac said if the county gets to a point where a renewed mask mandate might be needed, it would involve a conversation with Dr. James Kravec, the county health department’s medical director. “We would want to see what the hospitals are like. If we are seeing more severity in the cases, we would start having those conversations.”
Tekac said what he sees right now is “general spread.”
He has some personal experience with COVID-19 having contracted it in late June.
“I don’t even know where I got it from, and I try to be as careful as possible because of my 1-year-old at home. But I go to a lot of meetings and can’t really pinpoint where I got it.”
Tekac said a lot of others who have contracted COVID-19 recently also “can’t say where they got it from.”
He said the statistics show that is on the increase.
“It’s nationwide. I think we’re going through that peak and wave, but the good news is the severity of the cases is quite mild,” he said.
He said he talks with Kravec regularly and Kravec has said COVID-19 is “manageable within the health care system.”
Tekac said: “Everyone I have talked to who has contracted (the virus) in the past few weeks or even a month, they’ve had mild cases. I actually had it at the end of June. It was mild.”
He said the symptom that led him to believe he had the virus was that he got a fever. “That’s when I decided to take a test and tested positive.”
He said he tested positive for the virus just before his birthday. His wife was planning a birthday party for him and he did not want to spread the virus at his party. “Those birthday plans never took place,” he said.
“The good news is I never spread it to my wife, and I never gave it to my son at home. I isolated quickly and they never got it,” he said.
When asked about area nursing home cases, he said he spoke with the health department’s epidemiologist and nursing director. They noted that those facilities have testing protocols.
“They’re testing, so they are going to find those numbers whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic because as soon as they have someone who is testing positive, they are going through all of their protocols of testing others.”
He said it means the nursing homes are finding COVID-19 cases at higher levels than the general population because they test more than the general population.
Tekac said his COVID-19 “started out like allergies” but he also had a “terrible headache.” He tested negative on two consecutive days and then tested positive the third day when he had a fever. “It was when I had the fever, that’s when I knew I had something. I just didn’t know what it was until I tested positive.” Headache is also a sign of COVID-19, he said.
“I hadn’t had a fever in a long time. It was one where the fever breaks, and you get the cold sweats, like shivering. You’re cold but you are still hot. I was like, ‘something’s off here,'” he said.
A general message for the public is if they are “not feeling well, stay home.”
It took Tekac two or three days to confirm he had COVID-19, “So if I would have been out and about, going everywhere until I tested positive, I would have exposed more people. As soon as I knew I had something, I isolated from my family because I didn’t want to pass on whatever I had.
“The true message is if you’re not feeling well, stay at home, get a test, and find out if you have COVID, and if you do, follow the protocols where you have to stay at home five days and then mask for those additional five days when you return to work.”