Oxford reinstates mask requirement


Photo taken from the video feed of the meeting

Michael Everett, president and COO of McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, gives a briefing on local COVID numbers at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

By Morgan Schneider

Oxford residents will witness a major COVID-19 restriction go back into effect as more than 14,000 Miami University students return for the spring semester.

City council voted to reinstate an indoor mask mandate at its meeting this Tuesday, Jan. 18. The ordinance went into effect immediately and will expire March 1. Councilman Glenn Ellerbe cast the lone opposing vote.

The council also passed a resolution encouraging all “eligible individuals” within the city to become fully vaccinated, including a booster shot, and to wear masks in indoor public spaces. The resolution passed with no opposition. Ellerbe, who said that people should get vaccinations and wear masks, voted for the resolution, but against the mandate, because he thinks the measures should be voluntary. 

The mandate was scheduled to be discussed at the Jan. 4 council meeting, but was postponed because Councilor Jason Bracken was absent at that meeting, leaving only five members willing to approve the mandate. To pass as an emergency measure that takes effect immediately, a measure needs at least six votes. 

The mandate and resolution have come as the Omicron variant of the virus is hitting Oxford and its schools especially hard. Health officials at the local, state and federal levels have recommended that vaccinations and masks best guard against the virus.

All Talawanda schools closed Jan. 20 and 21 due to a shortage of substitute teachers and a high percent of student absences. Talawanda reported over 100 students across the district were quarantining last week. The days were classified as “calamity days,” and no online instruction was offered.

The 14-day positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has reached an all-time high of 39% in the 45056 zip code, according to the Butler County Health Department. Michael Everett, president and COO of McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, gave the council an update on COVID-19 conditions at the hospital during Tuesday’s meeting. 

Everett said the hospital is encouraged by the decline of COVID-19 cases in northern states and he hopes that will happen in Oxford as well. 

While the biannual influx of Miami students could cause COVID-19 cases to rise dramatically, several council members said that might not be the case.

“What I would tell the community is that students coming back are not the biggest problem that we have,” Mayor William Snavely said. “They’re mostly vaccinated – they’re over 90%, I believe.” 

Miami required all students to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus in order to register for spring classes. The university recently extended its own indoor mask mandate through the spring semester. Additionally, all students living in university housing will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival to campus Sunday, Jan. 23.