Though rules have been loosened, masks are still generally required in public, indoor places
Summit County officially moved into level green on Wednesday, May 5, meaning measures like the 6-foot distancing rule and capacity restrictions were officially removed.
While the news was a big win for many local businesses, life won’t completely go back to normal just yet. On Tuesday, May 4, Summit County health officials and the Summit Board of County Commissioners developed specifics surrounding level green restrictions and what measures will remain in place.
Most notable is an ongoing mask mandate that requires facial coverings be worn in indoor places open to the public and at outdoor events where individuals will be within 6 feet of one another for longer than 15 minutes, such as a parade or concert.
County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said this is partly due to the fact that the state has extended its mask mandate and also due to Summit County’s transient nature.
“We’re in a different position than many other places, too, because of the level of tourists that will be coming to the county in the summer, and (we’re) trying to understand what that means,” Lawrence said.
Summit County Manager Scott Vargo also said the move to keep masks was because the county hasn’t hit its vaccination goal yet.
“We are still trying to increase our vaccination rates,” Vargo said. “We haven’t reached our end goal target, which has been that 70% fully vaccinated, so we want to keep masks in place at least to some degree while we continue to try to strive to reach those vaccination goals.”
In other situations, masks are not required, such as for the hearing impaired or for band members or speakers who are at least 25 feet away from an audience.
A news release also said that “mask-wearing requirements for public venues like restaurants or indoor events will not be relaxed based on vaccination status of business staff or attendees at an event.” This language is in response to the amended mask order from the state that says individuals can remove their masks if they are in an indoor public space where 80% of individuals are vaccinated.
Lawrence said the state’s measure is currently not appropriate in Summit County.
“(We’ll) also be a little bit more restrictive because, for example, in the grocery store, there’s no way for you to know who is and is not vaccinated like you could with a group of friends at a dinner or other various gatherings or in your office, for example,” she said.
For indoor spaces where vaccination rates likely would be known, including offices, masks would not be required if everyone is vaccinated and the office is not open to the public. For more information on the county’s level green restrictions, residents and visitors should visit the county’s website.
Moving forward, the county would not move back to a more restrictive level on the dial unless hospitalizations surge.
As the incidence rate continues to hold steady in level green metrics, some community members have raised questions about testing and whether fewer people getting tested is leading to the county’s lower case rates. According to Lawrence, testing is down, but she said that isn’t cause for alarm.
“Less people are getting tested; that’s absolutely the case,” she said. “But that’s also because less people need to get tested. Vaccination rates have been going up across Summit County, and as less people are actually having COVID and having symptoms, there just doesn’t need to be the huge amount of testing that we used to see.”
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