COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Governor Mike DeWine announced on Tuesday that the Ohio Department of Health will issue an order mandating the use of face coverings in public in counties that are designated as a Red Level 3 Public Health Emergency Alert.
The order goes into effect at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and to start, will include Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery, and Trumbull Counties. It will remain in place as long as the counties remain at a Level 3 (red) or increase to Level 4 (purple). Should they drop to a Level 2, the requirement will not apply.
Violating the state public health order can be a penalty up to a second-degree misdemeanor, according to Dan Tierney, Spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine. A second-degree misdemeanor could be up to a $750 fine and up to 90 days in jail according to Ohio Revised Code. Dan Tierney told WDTN.com on Tuesday they aren’t seeking to put anyone in jail but wanted the health order on the books for egregious cases.
“We are talking hypothetical situations that escalated to where someone has to call local authorities,” Tierney said. “The charge could also depend on if there’s a local mask ordinance in places such as in Dayton or Yellow Springs. A prosecutor would have to decide whether to file it as a violation of the local law or the state law.
“As The Lt. Governor (Jon Husted) said if someone is maliciously trying to spread the disease we need something on the books. The purpose of the health order is not to seek criminal penalties, it’s to get people to comply with wearing masks.”
Tierney said the health order’s purpose is to allow cases to decline in those counties and to allow people there to continue participating in the local economy.
“We need people in these counties to wear masks and want them to keep businesses open and the economy flowing,” Tierney said. “One way to do that safely is to wear a mask and follow social distancing.”
Tierney emphasized people in red counties should consider whether to attend social gatherings and they should also keep in mind to help people who may be more at risk if they catch the virus.
“People should ask, if there’s a social gathering in a red county, do I need to attend this?” Tierney said. “If you know an older Ohioan with underlying conditions that could lead to possible complications with COVID-19, we are asking what would you do? You could probably ask grandma if you could get her groceries.”
People in the affected areas will need to wear a mask when they are in any indoor location that is not a residence, when they are outdoors and unable to consistently maintain 6-feet or more from those who are not in their household, or when they are waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, a taxi, private car service, or a ride-sharing service.
Pre-existing exemptions apply for those whose physicians advise against wearing a mask, if wearing a mask is prohibited by federal regulation, if communicating with the hearing-impaired, when alone in your office or personal workspace, or other similar measures.
Schools should still follow guidelines set forth by the state last week.
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