Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a statewide mask mandate last week which went into effect on Thursday and instructs Ohioans and travelers to wear face coverings. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) released the full document detailing the order late Thursday.
According to Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner, masks are not the entire solution to the pandemic but will help slow the virus’ spread.
“Another of the comments we get a lot is, ‘Now that we’re doing masks, that means everything else is back to normal,’” Warner said. “Masks are just one part of the many different tools in our toolbox to address COVID-19 — they aren’t meant to be the only thing that fixes all problems. Masks are just one part of a complicated solution that we’re trying to implement. Masks won’t make all the disease go away, but they’re going to help us slow it down.”
In previous interviews and Facebook Live conferences, Warner explained that face coverings, like cloth masks, mostly serve to minimize the risk of the wearer spreading and exposing others to COVID-19, especially since no one has immunity against virus — as they typically have against seasonal illnesses like the flu — because COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus.
The governor’s mandate follows experts’ guidance that widespread mask-wearing over a month or six weeks could drastically decrease COVID-19.
“Our preliminary data indicate that the rate of increase in new cases has slowed in the high-risk counties where masks are already mandated, so we are cautiously optimistic that things are heading in the right direction,” DeWine said. “We believe that requiring masks statewide will make a significant difference and will be key to making sure other counties do not progress to a higher level of increased spread.”
Though Warner told The Times-Gazette that the health department does not have the resources to enforce the mandate, he said he’s calling on his fellow Highland County residents.
“There is evidence that masks are effective in reducing the spread of COVID. We don’t have the resources necessary to try to enforce this, so we’re calling on the citizens of Highland County,” Warner said. “Don’t ask the question, ‘Is it legal for the government to force me to put fabric on my face?’ — it really becomes a personal question: are you willing to be a little uncomfortable if it means making our county a little more healthy? And hopefully the answer to that is ‘yes.’
“If it’s something that you’re able to do, wear the mask. If you can’t wear a mask and a face shield works out better for you, wear a face shield. We’re going to support anything that you do to try to be helpful and try to help your fellow man.”
According to DeWine and ODH Interim Director Lance Himes’ order, Ohioans and travelers should wear face coverings when:
* In any non-residential indoor location;
* Outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a stance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their family/household;
* Waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, a taxi, car service, or a ride-sharing vehicle. This does not apply to private or rental vehicles where members of the same family/household are sharing a vehicle.
The order defines a face covering as any material covering an individual’s nose, mouth and chin.
* Children under the age of 10;
* Those with a medical condition, including those with respiratory conditions that restrict breathing or mental health conditions, or those who cannot wear a mask due to disability;
* Those communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or who has another disability where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication;
* Those alone in an enclosed space, such as an office, or those separated from others by at least six feet in all directions. In either case, the space must not be intended for use or access by the public;
* Those actively exercising in a gym or indoor facility, so long as six or more feet separate them from other individuals;
* Those actively participating in athletic practice, scrimmage, or competition that is permitted under a separate department of health order;
* Those actively engaged in public safety, such as law enforcement, firefighters or emergency medical personnel;
* Those seated and actively consuming food or beverage in a restaurant or bar;
* Those actively participating in broadcast communications;
* When facial coverings are prohibited by law or regulation;
* When facial coverings are in violation of documented industry standards;
* When facial coverings are in violation of a business’s documented safety policies;
* When employees working in an industrial or manufacturing facility are separated by at least six feet in all directions, or by a barrier in a manufacturing line or work area;
* K-12 schools complying with guidelines set forth by the Ohio Department of Education and the ODH;
* Child care centers, family care, in-home aids, day camps, and after school programs licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) that comply with current and future guidelines set forth by the ODJFS and ODH.
The order also states that individuals should maintain social distancing guidelines and maintain good hand-washing practices.
For more information or to view the full document detailing the order, visit www.governor.ohio.gov or www.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.