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FAQ: What you need to know about Cincinnati's new mask ordinance

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Posted at 1:39 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 18:18:48-04

Cincinnati City Council just passed an ordinance requiring mandatory mask-wearing throughout the city. You probably have questions.

When does the ordinance take effect?

July 9.

Where do I have to wear a mask?

Indoors in public or congregate settings, including government buildings, retail stores and on public transportation.

What happens if I see someone without a mask?

Councilman Greg Landsman encouraged anyone with concerns about mask-wearing to contact the Cincinnati Health Department at 513-357-7200.

Multiple members of council repeatedly emphasized that police should not be the first group called to respond, although they would be available to assist the health department if necessary.

What happens if I am the one seen without a mask?

The health department should give you the opportunity to accept one from them, according to the ordinance. You will not be penalized if you agree to wear a mask in this situation.

“We have a scenario where we are passing out way more masks than tickets,” Landsman said. “That’s our goal.”

If you continue to refuse, you will receive a $25 fine.

Is anyone exempt?

Several groups are exempt, including:

  • Children under the age of 6
  • Restaurant patrons while eating or drinking
  • Gym patrons while exercising
  • Students, teachers and school staff while on school grounds
  • Employees who cannot safely perform their duties while masked
  • People who cannot wear a mask because of a health condition, whether mental or physical

Where can I get a mask if I don’t have one already?

Grocery stores such as Kroger and Target sell fabric masks, both online and in person. They can range in price from a few dollars to around $20.

According to Councilwoman Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, the nonprofit Center for Closing the Health Gap has collected masks for free distribution. Anyone interested in getting one should contact the group.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is also working with some local businesses to hand out "Restart Kits," which have masks and hand sanitizer in them. The kits are free.

Who voted for this?

Council passed the ordinance by a vote of 7-2. Members Greg Landsman, David Mann, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman, Wendell Young and Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney all voted yes.

Members Jeff Pastor and Betsy Sundermann voted no.

Why is Council doing this?

“No one likes wearing masks,” Lemon Kearney said Friday. “It’s irritating to me, but it’s a minor inconvenience, but we’re talking about saving lives — not just yours, but people around you.”

Hamilton County is among seven “red alert” counties characterized by the Ohio Department of Health as exhibiting "very high exposure and spread" of COVID-19. The county has seen its number of new daily cases triple in recent weeks, helping to drive Ohio toward some of its highest-ever daily diagnosis totals.

Before Friday's vote, public health advocates — including Cincinnati health commissioner Melba Moore and Dr. Phil Lichtenstein, a pediatrician who serves as chairman of the Cincinnati Board of Health — testified that implementing a mandatory mask requirement could dramatically reduce the level at which the virus spreads. The result would be a healthier population, Moore said, and fewer stumbling blocks on the road to keeping the state's economy functioning without further shutdowns.

The cities of Dayton and Columbus, also located in "red alert counties," passed their own mask laws on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.