PHDMC calls for local governments to require indoor masking amid COVID-19 hospitalization surge

DAYTON — Public health leaders are urging jurisdictions to consider enacting indoor mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb across the region and state.

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Jeff Cooper, Health Commissioner for Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County urged elected leaders in individual towns in the county to consider their legislative power to issue mandates for masks within their jurisdictions.

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“This surge is very concerning. We’re at the point where Public Health is encouraging all Montgomery County jurisdictions, all the political jurisdictions within Montgomery County, to consider executive orders and/or legislative actions to require public indoor masking in all community settings within their jurisdictions, including workplaces, grocery stores, restaurants, and other venues,” Cooper said.

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“We’re at the point where we do not have enough vaccine uptake and we know that masking works. We’re asking all jurisdictions to take action to require masking within their jurisdictions.”

Cooper said PHDMC is not able to issue a mask mandate in the county, citing Senate Bill 22 that was passed by Ohio lawmakers and went into effect earlier this year.

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“Quite frankly, and this is very disturbing, we no longer have the authority to impose for example a mask mandate, or set other prohibitions in place to prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.

“We need to do what’s necessary for the greater good,” Cooper said.

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PHDMC’s request comes after Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Wednesday he plans to issue an executive order next week that will make indoor masking mandatory for all individuals, regardless of vaccine status.

A City of Dayton spokesperson said the city plans to follow the recommendations of PHDMC in regards to masking, however they are still working out the details.

“We are planning to follow the recommendation of Public Health as it relates to masking. However, we are still in the process of working out the details. Once we have something finalized we will reach out to the media with details,” the city spokesperson said in an emailed statement to News Center 7

Cooper said the state sits today at 630 cases per 100,000 people, which remains a significant jump from the low points this year around 20 cases per 100,000 in July. However its about halfway to the December 2020 peak around 1,200 cases per 100,000.

Cooper was joined by other members of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association members, including leaders from Kettering Health, Premier Health, and Dayton Children’s Hospital to provide updates on the current hospitalization situation in the region.

The leaders talked about a surge of hospitalizations across several age groups, including children and among age groups not previously hospitalized in other surges during the pandemic.

Dr. Nancy Pook of Kettering Health said data continues to show the vast majority of hospitalizations, around 98 percent, since the start of the year have been among people not fully vaccinated against the virus.

“Each hospitalization, each death from COVID-19 is now a tragedy that could have been prevented,” Pook said.

Dr. Adam Mezoff, Chief Medical Officer at Dayton Children’s Hospital continued the message poised by children’s health leaders the last two weeks, saying the myth of children not getting, or not getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is not true.

“In the last three or four weeks there has been a dramatic surge, and we feel in the pediatric world your children are getting sick and we need to do something about it,” Mezoff said.

Mezoff added there are currently 13 children at Dayton Children’s Hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, four of which are in the ICU. In the first week of August, Dayton Children’s only had one child receiving COVID-19 treatments.

“The delta variant has been a game changer,” he said.

Mezoff encouraged parents to get vaccinated themselves and get their children vaccinated if they are of an approved age. He also called upon people to wear masks when appropriate and for parents send their kids to school wearing masks as well.

“Lets not go into this battle with COVID half-prepared, or allow our children to be put in harms way without being protected to the maximum amount that we can. I’m pleading with you, as a community, please join us in helping to protect the children of the community,” Mezoff said.

While issues of hospital capacity remain concerning among hospital leaders, there are currently no plans among the Dayton-area hospitals to limit or pause elective surgeries amid this surge.

The Ohio Hospital Association reports there are 3,147 people currently hospitalized across the state with COVID-19. In the region that covers most of the Dayton area, 332 hospitalizations for COVID-19 are currently reported, which is one out of every seven patients currently in a hospital.

Dr. Marc Belcastro, Chief Medical Officer for Premier Health said people are coming to emergency rooms more frequently to get COVID-19 testing, and encouraged the public to discontinue doing that.

Belcastro said all the health networks in the Dayton area offer COVID-19 testing outside the hospitals, and encouraged people seeking that diagnostic testing to seek it outside the ERs. Only come to the hospital or emergency room “if you’re too sick to stay home.”

“If we don’t congest (emergency rooms) we can also provide care for strokes, and heart attacks, and all the other acute things that come into our emergency rooms,” Belcastro said.

PHDMC will begin rotating COVID-19 vaccination clinics at five different spots in the county starting next week. These locations will offer first vaccine doses, third doses for immunocompromised individuals, and booster shots, once guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been released.

The schedule will run from Tuesday through Saturday:

  • Tuesdays: Dayton Metro Library in Huber Heights
  • Wednesdays: Dayton Convention Center
  • Thursdays: Montgomery County Fairgrounds
  • Fridays: Northwest Recreation Center
  • Saturdays: Former Sugarcreek Packaging Center in Dayton on Gettysburg Avenue

We’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.