COLUMBUS, Ohio — During his press briefing on Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine was asked about why Ohio does not have a stricter mask mandate as it continues to set records for new COVID-19 cases. The governor said that the responsibility of enforcing the mask mandate falls on the “goodwill” of citizens.
“Ohioans have been able to dramatically increase mask wearing. We saw this back in July,” DeWine said. “We have a statewide mask order on. If you’re out in public, you need to have a mask on.”
On Oct. 15, DeWine said counties were seeing less mask compliance and many people not wearing masks around outside family groups and friend groups, increasing the spread of the virus. At that point, 65% of the state was living within a red Level 3 county. On Thursday, that statistic increased to 78% of Ohio’s population.
Despite the increase of COVID-19 cases and Ohioans complying less to the mask mandate, DeWine still believes in Ohioans and said it is up to citizens to do the right thing and wear a mask because authorities are not in a position to enforce the mandate.
“We don’t have a mask police and we’ve had some police departments that obviously don’t want to enforce that, health departments that are overrun with work and really not in a position to do that,” DeWine said. “So we rely on the goodwill of the people of the state of Ohio as we rely, frankly, on most compliance on most regulations or most laws.”
As he’s urged for the last several weeks, DeWine once again asked Ohioans to stay vigilant when it comes to wearing a mask and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as social distancing.
The governor said that in urban areas that increased their mask wearing in July from around 50% to around 90% compliance, cases decreased—insisting that if Ohioans wear their masks more often again, the state can slow the recent surge in cases.
“That is the most effective, the most efficient and, frankly, the only way we’re going to see the number of cases down. We’ve got to see more mask wearing and Ohioans have proven they can do it before,” DeWine said.
As for DeWine or the legislature creating a way to more strictly enforce the mask mandate in a manner similar to no smoking laws or seat belt laws, the governor said that isn’t an option.
“We don’t have the ability to have a mask police everywhere and we rely on the goodwill of the people of Ohio,” DeWine said. “I think the more people learn about—the more we learn about—the power of these masks and what masks have done in the past, and I think as people see community by community what it’s doing and will be doing to their community, I think we’re going to see mask compliance and wearing go up.”