COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mask-wearing will soon be mandatory in seven Ohio counties with “very high exposure and spread” of COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in his Tuesday news briefing.
People in Butler, Cuyohoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery and Trumbull counties will be required to mask up in public starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The requirement will remain in effect for as long as these counties remain red or purple — at a level 3 or level 4 public health emergency — on the Ohio Department of Health’s map of the state. Anyone who violates it will be in danger of receiving a misdemeanor charge.
“We’re not looking to see a lot people arrested," DeWine said. "That is not the idea at all. ... (But) if we’re not able to do this and carry this out, we’re going to see this virus take command again, and that is not a situation that we would want.”
The order will apply to people in indoor public settings, including workplaces, in outdoor settings that do not permit six feet of social distancing and on public transportation or inside ridesharing vehicles.
Children under 10, people with physician-approved medical exemptions and people who cannot safely wear a mask at work are not required to wear masks.
“Our experts believe there is spread no matter what county you live in,” DeWine added. “It’s just a question of how fast the spread is occurring and how much spread is taking place.”
The first three days of July ranked among Ohio’s highest-ever for new COVID-19 diagnoses, according to data gathered by the Ohio Department of Health. Each day brought in over 1,000 new cases — a level of infection that hadn’t been recorded since another three-day span in mid-April.
On April 27, shortly after the first spike, DeWine enacted his first mandatory-mask order and announced he would require customers inside retail businesses to go masked. He retracted it within 24 hours in response to public pressure and remained outwardly resistant to the suggestion of another for months. On June 29, when Ohio boarded the on-ramp to a new spike and recorded 737 new diagnoses, he announced plans to reopen nursing homes to some in-person visitation.
However, days later, he expressed support for Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s decision to make masks mandatory and suggested that other communities be prepared to follow her lead. Some did. Columbus and Cincinnati would both pass their own mandatory mask ordinances within the week.
On Tuesday, when he announced the new order, DeWine said he believed the public outcry that killed his first masking order would not do the same for this one.
“We are at a much more dangerous time, and we are at a point in time where I believe Ohioans, when they look at Texas, when they look at Florida, will say, 'We do not want to go there,'" he said. "And (they) will be willing to accept that, in the seven red counties, that wearing a mask out in public is absolutely imperative for the future of their county and the future of their state."