Mayor Andrew Ginther says he will sign an executive order that requires the wearing of face coverings in public. The order takes effect throughout Columbus on Friday, July 3, ahead of the holiday weekend.
Ginther says the order applies to both employees and customers inside stores, nail salons, tattoo parlors, public transit, health care settings, long-term care facilities, daycares and day camps. Masks will be required inside restaurants and bars, except when seated. And there are exemptions for medical and behavioral conditions and disabilities, as well as children under the age of 6.
"I know masks are uncomfortable," Ginther said Thursday. "I know, especially on days like these, they're hot. And friends, I know we are fatigued from months of fighting the spread of COVID-19. But we cannot, cannot let up now."
According to the text of the order (which you can read below), law enforcement are not authorized to criminally enforce the face covering requirements against "individaul workers, customers or patrons." However, law enforcement can enforce trespassing laws if a person doesn't wear a face covering and refuses to leave a business.
"Citations under this Executive Order shall be written only to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the requirement to wear Face Coverings," the order reads.
Other exemptions to the order include religious facilities and buildings owned and operated by the state of Ohio, such as the Statehouse, and the federal government.
"Law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first resonders, while encouraged to wear Face Coverings and practice social distancing when practicable, are specifically exempt from this order while engaged in the exercise of their duties outside of an office or business-stype setting," the order continues.
Columbus joins a number of Ohio cities, most recently Dayton and Bexley, that have moved to require masks as coronavirus cases surge throughout the state.
"We are in a dire situation, but one that we have a great deal of control over," Ginther said. "You and I have the power to slow the spread, protect ourselves and our families."
Columbus Health commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts says the city saw 198 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, its largest single-day increase since the pandemic began. That brings the city's total to 7,682 cases in Columbus and 382 deaths.
"We're really at a critical moment during this COVID-19 pandemic and our fight against it," Roberts says. "The virus is still here, and it continues to spread in our community, and across the state, as well as our country."
Roberts says Columbus Public Health will ask food operators and bars to consider reducing their capacity and hours in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. She adds that she doesn't blame the reopening of businesses for the increase in cases, but rather residents becoming lax with health precautions.
“There’s a certain amount of fatigue and lulling, people going from never leaving the house without a mask to all of a sudden forgetting the mask or not thinking it was as important,” Ginther said.
However, Roberts says the city has not seen any trend of the coronavirus spreading among large protests, which was something that health officials expressed concern about.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported an additional 1,076 cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day increase since mid-April. Gov. Mike DeWine has repeatedly urged residents to wear face masks, but refrained from issuing any order mandating their use in public.
In place of a statewide order, some local governments where coronavirus cases are surging have pursued mask mandates of their own.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley signed an ordinance that requires people to wear face coverings when in an enclosed space with others, beginning Friday. The ordinance applies to public transit and businesses like restaurants, bars, night clubs, stores, spas, hotels, gyms and health care locations.
Religious facilities are exempted, and face masks aren't required outside as long as people can maintain six feet of distance – with the exception of waiting in line outside of a business.
DeWine tweeted that he supported Whaley's ordinance, calling it an "appropriate and welcome response to the increase in #COVID19 cases in their area." He encouraged other communities to follow their lead.
On Monday night, the city of Bexley issued an emergency order that requires the wearing of face coverings in retail businesses, theaters, office spaces open to the public, and personal care and grooming businesses. Bexley's face mask mandate, which also takes effect Friday, extends to restaurants except when people are seated.
"If 80% of people wore face coverings in public, the COVID-19 pandemic would dramatically recede," Mayor Ben Kessler said in a statement. "Wearing a mask is an easy act of kindess and respect for our fellow human beings, and this order will directly save medical resources and may save lives."
Cincinnati, one of the places DeWine cited as a coronavirus hotspot, could vote on a mask requirement as early as Friday.
Multiple states have issued universal mask mandates in recent days, including Pennsylvania and Oregon. Research shows that face masks are one of the most effective methods of controlling the spread of the coronavirus.