When Cuyahoga County Could rid Ohio’s Mask Mandate

Cuyahoga County, located on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio, and Ohio’s second largest county in terms of population, has seen case numbers fluctuate since numerous vaccines reached the state in late 2020.

“When the vaccines first rolled out, case numbers were going down, but we are starting to see case numbers beginning to slowly rise again as more vaccines become available,” said Kevin Brennan, a Communications Officer for the county. “I believe that’s because people think once they receive the vaccine, they can stop taking precautions, but we know the vaccine isn’t 100% effective.”

To Brennan’s point, Cuyahoga County’s case numbers over the last month are all over the place, but so are the rest of the state.

When compared to the rest of the state, while Cuyahoga County hasn’t had massive spikes in cases, the case numbers go up and down like a rollercoaster.

“In late March, we went a couple days where we had less than 100 cases a day per 100,000 people, and then we shot right back up to around the 200-300 range,” Brennan said. “I think people were so excited to see how far cases went down that some thought we weren’t going to go back up, but that’s not true.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press briefing on March 4 that Ohio must be at or below 50 cases per 100,000 people for an entire two week period before he lifts the mask mandate he instituted at the beginning of the pandemic. In late March, Ohio cases spiked up. March 26 saw an increase of 1,241 cases, nearing the level of cases averaged prior to the vaccines being released.

 Beth Liston represents the 21st district in Franklin County in Columbus– the largest county in the state. She said Ohio’s rising case numbers aren’t concerning to her yet.

“I think we’re at the turning point of the pandemic,” Liston said. “We’re at a point now where there’s a lot of Ohioians that are completely vaccinated, but there’s a lot more that still have no protection against the virus, so that’s why case numbers are so out of whack right now. As more people get vaccinated, the numbers should come down.”

On April 22nd during one of his press briefings, Gov. DeWine encouraged Ohioans to continue to wear masks and social distance.

“I think the best thing that we can do, as far as keeping cases from surging back up,” the governor said. “We have a tool now that we didn’t have. We were all on defense before, and we had no way of being on offense. The offense now is the vaccine, but we can’t stop social distancing and wearing masks either until most of the state is vaccinated.”

 Liston believes Ohio could meet Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 people by the end of the summer if Ohioans continue to follow protocols, even after getting vaccinated.

“Just because you’re vaccinated does not mean other people are,” Liston said. “Until we are all vaccinated, we have to continue to act like we’re still not protected from the virus.”

When asked about the timeline for Cuyahoga County to reach Gov. DeWine’s threshold, Brennan gave a similar answer.

“It’s going to take time to receive the vaccine; we know that,” Brennan noted. “By July, do I think we could be back to some semblance of normalcy? Absolutely, but that’s only if everybody gets the vaccine as quickly as possible, and everyone still stays safe.”