Public Health: Responsibility lays with employers to enforce mask policies

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Officials with Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County held a news conference Thursday afternoon to provide an update on COVID-19 response in the area.

Governor Mike DeWine announced this week that while customers at Ohio businesses will not be required to wear facial coverings, employees will, with a few exceptions.

“There are protocols that need to be in place for all businesses. Not just those that are going to begin to operate again now, but those that have been operating all along,” said Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper. “We just need to become more comfortable with the fact that employees at all businesses are going to be required to wear a face covering.”

Although customers do not have to wear face coverings based on state guidelines, individual businesses are allowed to require their customers to wear one. Cooper says it will not be possible for Public Health to enforce that protocol.

DeWine on Wednesday laid out some guidelines regarding graduation, as schools across the state try to plan ceremonies around the stay at home order.

Cooper says Public Health’s official stance on graduation ceremonies is that virtual or drive-thru ceremonies are strongly encouraged. He stresses that Public Health will not be approving or disapproving any district’s graduation plans.

“We’re all in this together. None of these are easy decisions to make but we have confidence that our school districts will make the right decisions to protect their students, their faculty, and families,” said Cooper.

DeWine also confirmed Thursday that he would extend the stay at home order, and bars and restaurants have not been given an official date that they can reopen for full service. If any businesses try to reopen on their own early, Public Health will continue issuing cease and desist orders for non-compliance.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 285 cases of COVID-19 reported to the state out of Montgomery County, leading to 93 hospitalizations and 10 deaths.

Cooper says as of Thursday, Montgomery County is 12th out of 88 Ohio counties in terms of numbers of COVID-19 cases, 9th out of 88 in terms of hospitalizations, and 23rd in terms of deaths.

“When you look at our case rate compared to other metropolitan areas in the state, we’re very low compared to other major metropolitan areas throughout Ohio,” he said, while noting that as testing becomes more widely available and the economy slowly starts to reopen, we can expect to see an increase in numbers.

He says between now and the end of May, we should see about a 200 percent increase in testing availability across the state, going from essentially 43,000 tests being conducted per week to roughly 133,000 per week.

Contract tracing, he says, will become increasingly important to track the spread and notify potential individuals who may be asymptomatic. Cooper is particularly concerned with congregate care facilities such as nursing homes and jails, and says Public Health will need to be ready to act fast when cases are identified at locations such as these.

Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice says the Emergency Management Agency is requesting donations of clean, solid color cotton fabric or sheets that could be turned into face masks. They can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the St. Vincent de Paul loading dock on the south side of the building located at 945 East Edwin C Moses Boulevard.

As of this week, Montgomery County EMA has shipped 252,032 items consisting of mostly PPE to 232 organizations in the area.

Click here for more COVID-19 resources available through Montgomery County including unemployment benefits and job opportunities.

Rice says steps have been taken at emergency shelters and medically at-risk shelter guests are being housed at two area motels.

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