COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order Tuesday making masks mandatory for counties in the state where the rampant spread of coronavirus continues to be a rising threat.
DeWine has ordered “red” counties that have met four of seven criteria of the recently launched Public Health Advisory Alert System to have mandatory mask requirements. The order will take affect at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
It will be mandatory for those out in public to wear a mask under the following circumstances:
-When they are in any indoor location that is not a residence.
-When they are outside and unable to maintain a six-foot distance from those not in their household.
-When they are riding or driving in public transportation or ride-sharing.
The order does not apply to children under 10, or any other minor or other people who cannot safely wear a face covering. The order follows existing guidance for employees and businesses, which does not require a mask if a physician advises against it if wearing a mask is prohibited by federal guidelines, if communicating with the hearing impaired, or if alone in your office or a personal workspace.
"Primarily, this will be when they are in a public place inside a restaurant, bar, jewelry store, some other place in public," DeWine said.
The order will stay in effect as long as the county is at a Level Three or Level Four.
"This is aimed specifically at the seven counties where we are most concerned," DeWine said, adding that those in other counties are highly encouraged, but not required, to wear a face mask.
Ohioans who ignore the order or refuse to wear a mask are subject to a criminal misdemeanor, according to DeWine.
"The idea is that this is the norm. This is what is needed for Ohioans to stay safe," DeWine said. The governor's office said the state is working with local officials on how to deal with enforcement.
Additionally, the rule enforcement comes at the hands of the state, not the businesses.
Dr. Amy Edwards, Pediatric Disease Infectious Specialist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, told News 5 she is pleased with the mask mandate but is still hoping the Governor will take it one step further.
“I wish he would do it for the whole state, just say everybody has to wear it when they’re outside of their house all the time,” Edwards said.
“If we would just behave ourselves, we are adults, we’re not 5 years old.”
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish told News 5 he agrees with the mask mandate in his county and the six other Ohio counties.
Budish believes the public needs to be more responsible with mask-wearing while in public, especially after he and his wife had an experience at an outdoor dining venue just last week.
“It was probably a couple of hundred people in a relatively small place, not one person, I looked, not one person wearing a mask, except for the servers wearing masks," Budish said.
“So we turned around and left.”
“They’re going out, they’re socializing and they’re not wearing masks and they’re not staying six feet away."
“We don’t want to close businesses, we don’t want to shutter the county and the state down again.”
“Yes, we worry about it, we worry every day about it.”
Rep. Michael Skindell, Ohio House District 13 (D-Lakewood), told News 5 he's concerned if mask-wearing doesn't improve soon it could also have a devastating economic impact.
“Well this is a measured response, otherwise it’s a shutdown and you hurt the economy and you throw people on the unemployment line,” Skindell said.
“The way it’s politicized, and we’re not listening to the medical professionals and the scientists.
According to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, the state wants stores to post signs about mandatory masks but it doesn't expect someone like a grocery store worker to enforce the order.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Ohio has seven counties at a Level Three Public Emergency, meaning that there is "very high exposure and spread," according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Those counties include:
DeWine said he reached this order after speaking with directors of health in the seven Level Three "red" counties with the most indicators of coronavirus spread. They said they are seeing significant spread as a result of large family gatherings.
The system is color-coded to assess the level of spread in the area to better guide officials to determine appropriate actions. The four levels include:
- Level 1 - Yellow: Zero or one indicator have been flagged active spread exposure.
- Level 2 - Orange: Two or three indicators have been flagged, there is an increased risk for exposure and spread.
- Level 3 - Red: Four or five indicators have been flagged, there is a very high risk for exposure and spread. Ohioans should limit activities when possible and wear a mask in public.
- Level 4 - Purple: Six to seven indicators have been flagged, there is severe exposure and spread. Residents in these counties should stay home as much as possible.
More information about the alert map and indicators can be found, here.
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The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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