COVID-19 cases are surging in Ohio. What should you do about delta variant, masks, vaccines?

Micah Walker
The Columbus Dispatch

Despite COVID-19 vaccines becoming readily accessible earlier this year, cases are rising once again in Ohio. 

Since late June, cases have been ticking up due to the spread of the delta variant. The state reported 1,769 cases Tuesday and 38 deaths, which is more than double the 21-day average.

News:Franklin County's COVID cases up 68.1%; Ohio cases surge 60.8%

With case counts soaring into the thousands, schools, universities, and businesses are resorting back to requiring or recommending masks. And many people — including vaccinated ones — are wondering about what exactly is the right thing to do.

To help address people's concerns about this latest surge, the Dispatch asked Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health commissioner, to discuss common questions regarding COVID-19, masks, vaccines, travel and more. 

Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health commissioner, left, talks about COVID-19 during a news conference with Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther in December.

Do vaccines work against the delta variant?

Dr. Mysheika Roberts: Yes, from everything that we know at this point, the vaccines do work against the delta variant. 

Do fully vaccinated people need to wear masks inside public places?

Roberts: Yes they do because fully vaccinated people can shed the virus, and they can give it to other people. 

Are there times when people should wear a mask outside?

Roberts: At this point in time, only unvaccinated people should wear masks outside when they're around other people. Or, if you're vaccinated and in a large crowd, you should wear a mask outside. 

If I already had COVID-19, should I still get vaccinated?

Roberts: Absolutely, because the natural antibodies that you get from a COVID infection, we don't know how long they will last or how strong they will be. So we definitely encourage those individuals to get vaccinated. 

What does it mean that there is substantial community spread in Franklin County and how should that change my behavior?

Roberts: It means that we have greater than 50 cases per 100,000 and that you should change your behavior by wearing a mask indoors, whether you're vaccinated or not. 

When children return to school, should they social distance as well?

Roberts: As best as they can, but masks are important. 

Do you believe these case surges translate into hospitalizations and deaths? 

Roberts: Yes, I do unfortunately. 

If someone is infected by COVID-19, how long should they isolate?

Roberts: If someone is ill with COVID-19, they need to isolate for 10 to 14 days, regardless of a test because their test will probably still be positive. 

Do we need COVID-19 vaccine booster shots? 

Roberts: There's a good possibility that at least some of our population, like our most vulnerable — like those who are over 65 and those who have compromised immune systems — will need a booster. And it's possible that others in our community will need a booster as well. 

Is it safe to travel?

Roberts: If you're vaccinated, you should do so carefully. If you're not vaccinated, I would not encourage people to travel. 

Will it be OK to host/attend Labor Day gatherings? 

Roberts: If everyone's vaccinated, it is safe, and if you do it outside, it's even safer. 

Even people who already have had COVID-19 should get vaccinated, according to Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus Public Health commissioner.

What else do you want to know?

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