Dayton becomes first major Ohio city to require masks in public spaces

Cincinnati City Council members react Wednesday
Posted at 7:09 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 23:11:17-04

DAYTON, Ohio — Dayton became the first major city in Ohio to require its citizens to wear face masks or protective coverings in public spaces on Wednesday.

According to WCPO media partner WHIO, Dayton’s City Commission unanimously passed a proposed ordinance requiring people wear masks in public to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Under the ordinance, people within city limits will be required to wear a mask or face covering anytime they are in public spaces like grocery stores, libraries, on public transit, retail establishments, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The ordinance does not apply when eating and drinking, swimming or undergoing a medical procedure or where physical distance can be maintained. People who have medical conditions that would make it difficult to wear a mask are exempt from the ordinance.

Read the full ordinance in the viewer below:

Dayton Mask Ordinance by WCPO Web Team on Scribd

Dayton Mayor Nan Whalen announced the ordinance at an earlier press conference Wednesday, saying it would take effect at 8 a.m. on Friday. Not wearing a mask or face covering in public spaces could result in an $85 fine.

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper said phased lifting of restrictions has led to a “surge” in new coronavirus cases in the area.

“Obviously, when we look at all the data out there... because of the lifting of restrictions, that has sent a message to the community that the risk is lowered. Clearly, that is not the case,” said Cooper, the commissioner of Public Health for Dayton and Montgomery County.

Could a mask ordinance come to Cincinnati?

In Cincinnati, Councilman Chris Seelbach also tweeted support for an ordinance that would require masks in public spaces here.

"A month ago Ohio saw 400 new positive cases/day. Yesterday, we saw over 1,000 in a single day. Hopeful Mayor, under the emergency declaration, will issue mandatory masks in public," he tweeted. "If that doesn't happen, I'll work with my colleagues to call a special session of Council next week to introduce and pass legislation to require masks in Cincinnati."

Councilman Greg Landsman also voiced support, citing Hamilton County's recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

"We need to require that people wear masks in public settings. If everyone wears a mask, we can stop the spread of COVID, save lives, keep our economy open, and let our children go back to school," Landsman tweeted.

But Councilman Jeff Pastor said Wednesday he believes mandating Cincinnatians wear masks is "one step too far."

"I will strongly oppose any ordinance requiring citizens to wear mask," Pastor tweeted. "Private business and entry into government buildings requiring masks, cool. Times are getting crazier by the day."

Councilman David Mann told WCPO he thinks "people need to wear masks," but wonders if "there is another way to get compliance" besides a city ordinance.

"I would hate to divert officers to that kind of work with everything that's going on right now," Mann said.

And Councilwoman Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney told WCPO she might prefer a warning to a fine, adding that $85 would be a "stiff" price for not wearing a face mask.

"We do need something to drive home that people have to wear a mask, we have to do something to flatten the curve to keep businesses from having to close and to protect people's health. People are dying from this," she said.

She believes a temporary ordinance would be a reasonable ask if it means preventing new virus cases.

"Hamilton County is now a hot spot, and the fear is we may have to go back to businesses closing and hurting people who need businesses open in order to survive," she said. "Then, there is the even more paramount issue of health, if you don't wear a mask, you're hurting other people."

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld also weighed in on Twitter, saying wearing masks is "the right thing to do" though a mask wearing-requirement would be more uniformly applied through a state order. In the absence of that, he tweeted that any local ordinance would have to consider availability of masks, especially to low-income residents.

"Let's be safe by being smart - but not sacrifice equity in the process," he tweeted Wednesday.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement supporting the ordinance Wednesday afternoon, saying other communities should “consider following Dayton’s lead.”

“I support Mayor Whaley's and Dayton's decision to require the use of masks in public places. It’s an appropriate and welcome response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in their area. Masks are recommended by the CDC and medical professionals to help protect other people. Wearing a mask will allow us to help keep businesses open and help prevent further spikes,” DeWine said.

DeWine previously announced a statewide order requiring masks in public, but ultimately walked it back amid criticism.

WHIO Newscenter 7 is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.