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'Legal, constitutional and very, very sensible' — law professor says mask mandates don't infringe on rights

American flag with masks
Posted at 4:51 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 19:22:22-04

CLEVELAND — As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, people on both sides of the mask debate are passionate about where they stand.

“It’s very sad that this has become a political issue,” said Sharona Hoffman, a professor of Law and Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University.

On Wednesday night, an order from Governor Mike DeWine will take effect, requiring masks in public settings in seven Ohio counties, including Cuyahoga.

RELATED: Gov. DeWine issues order making masks mandatory in high-risk counties

The move sparked increased chatter around the claim that these mandates infringe on the rights of Americans.

“This shouldn’t be about people’s liberties,” said Hoffman.

Government mandates are nothing new.

“We have to pay taxes, we have to abide by the speed limit,” said Hoffman.

During this pandemic, regulations requiring masks are no different and totally appropriate, according to Hoffman.

“This type of regulation is legal, constitutional and very, very sensible,” said Hoffman.

One of the main responsibilities of elected officials is to ensure the health and safety of those they serve.

“It wouldn’t make sense to even have a government if their hands were tied and they couldn’t take these measures,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman said people should be willing to mask-up on their own and not be told to do so.

“This should be something that people are very willing to do not only to protect themselves but also to protect other people,” said Hoffman.

On the News 5 Facebook page, Hoffman answered some of your questions about the mask mandate – including enforcement.

RELATED: WATCH: Facebook Q&A about face mask mandates with a bioethics professor from CWRU

“My understanding is that actually the police will enforce it. A restaurant is going to write you a ticket or anything like that,” said Hoffman.

Others expressed concerns about having to wear a mask out in their yard or walking from their car into a store.

“You do have to wear it outside if you cannot consistently stay 6-feet away from other people,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman said the mask regulation is narrowly tailored and temporary in the seven Ohio counties seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases and currently in a "red alert."

“As soon as we go back down to the orange level, I believe this mandate is lifted,” said Hoffman.

However, local mandates, such as the one in Cleveland, would still be in effect and enforced.

“There is absolute legal authority for the government to take action in response to a public health emergency,” said Hoffman.

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