Survey: Most Cincinnatians Want Mask Mandates Due to COVID-19

Local nonprofit Interact for Health's survey results come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout Greater Cincinnati.

click to enlarge Masking can help defend against the coronavirus, scientists say. - Photo: Fusion Medical Animation, Unsplash
Photo: Fusion Medical Animation, Unsplash
Masking can help defend against the coronavirus, scientists say.

COVID-19 continues to plague the Greater Cincinnati region, and many residents want to do something about it.

A new report from local nonprofit Interact for Health shares results from a survey about COVID-19 safety protocols. Results were released on Tuesday, and the survey was conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 12 among 520 adults within Greater Cincinnati's 20-county region (this includes parts of Kentucky and Indiana).

According to survey results, 70% want businesses to require masking for employees when working in person. In addition, respondents also want businesses to require masks at events, with 69% saying attendee should be obligated to wear them at large indoor gatherings and 54% wanting masks at large outdoor functions.

Virologists and other experts agree that the coronavirus spreads through the air via fine aerosol particles that can linger for hours, which is why scientists strongly recommend wearing masks — especially when indoors or among large groups — practicing physical distancing, having good ventilation and moving airflow, and avoiding large gatherings.

Scientific studies have shown that public masking can block a high percentage of coronavirus particles from spreading to others and can protect the wearer, as well — even when not everyone does so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends well-fitting masks that a person will wear consistently.

Survey respondents are more split on issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. About 52% say businesses should require COVID-19 vaccinations to be able conduct in-person work. As for large events, 55% of Cincinnatians want businesses to require proof of vaccination for entry indoors, while only 45% want to show proof outdoors.

Scientists have said that getting one of the three COVID-19 vaccination series available in the United States (Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson) greatly protects people from severe illness and likely hospitalization should they be exposed to the coronavirus, including its variants like Omicron and Delta. Adding a booster provides even more protection against serious health challenges or death, experts say. And though even vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19, they are much less likely to need hospitalization. Most hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated, medical staff say.

Of Interact for Health's survey respondents who had already completed a regular COVID-19 vaccination series, 78% say they are very or somewhat likely to get a booster.

COVID-19 vaccinations are available to people ages 5 and older. Boosters are available to everyone 18 and up and and to teens ages 12-17 years old if they've completed the Pfizer vaccine series.

According to data from the Health Collaborative as of Jan. 24, only about 57% of regional residents have been vaccinated, while only 20% have been boosted.

Interact for Health conducted its survey shortly before the Omicron variant of the coronavirus began spreading in earnest across the globe. Most of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States are now due to Omicron rather than to the original strain, the Delta variant or other iterations of the virus.

During a Jan. 12 briefing with reporters, Deborah Hayes, president and CEO of The Christ Hospital, said that Omicron, the virus' latest variant, is changing the "rules" of the ongoing pandemic. 

"One of the things about Omicron that is very different from all of the other variants of this COVID virus is that its transmissibility efficiency is at least twice what any of the other strains of this COVID virus has been," Hayes said. "It is a virus that spreads almost as, if not as, easily as measles."

"It's one of the most transmissible viruses in the history of the world," Hayes added.

As it has for months, the CDC continues to label the entire state of Ohio red, meaning there is a high community transmission for COVID-19.

In the Health Collaborative's Jan. 24 report, the groups says, "All regional counties remain substantially higher than the highest CDC classification for total new cases and for percentage of tests that are positive. We are not yet certain if our region has peaked."

Local governments are responding to swelling COVID numbers with additional measures. On Jan. 12, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval declared a state of emergency and announced a mask order for all city buildings. For 30 days after the declaration, all city employees and all members of the public must wear face masks within Cincinnati city facilities to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners also declared a public health state of emergency on Jan. 11 due to COVID-19.  The board had issued a state of emergency at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020 that expired in October of last year. The most recent declaration is a renewal of that order.

And on Jan. 11, Pureval joined with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb to ask Ohio officials for more state resources such as testing sites and supplies. Both cities — two of Ohio's largest — are being slammed with COVID-19 patients, they said, and they need more resources and staff.

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