Masks Mandatory In Ohio Starting Thursday Night, Travel Advisory Issued
Updated: 4:48 p.m., Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Gov. Mike DeWine is making mask wearing mandatory across the state of Ohio as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.
"We have to get this under control," he said of the surge in COVID-19 cases across the state.
The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,527 additional coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the third-highest daily total so far, after 1,679 and 1,542 cases reported on July 17 and 18, respectively.
Masks are an important tool in the effort to control the spread of the virus, DeWine said at his Wednesday coronavirus briefing in Columbus. Counties at Level 3 on the Ohio Department of Health's coronavirus risk assessment alert system, indicated in red, already are required to wear masks. In Northeast Ohio, Cuyahoga, Lorain and Summit counties were already under mask requirements based on that system.
“I want to thank everyone in our red counties for wearing a mask,” he said. “It is making a difference.”
While many Ohio cities – including Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton – and several counties have passed local requirements for face coverings, DeWine has been resistant to a state-wide mask order after taking heat on the mask question in April, when Ohio businesses first began the reopening process.
Beginning Thursday, individuals must wear facial coverings in public in all of Ohio’s 88 counties, specifically in indoor locations that are not a residence, outdoors in places where six feet of social distancing is not possible, and when using public transportation, taxis or ride-shares. Those actively exercising or playing sports or eating and drinking are also excluded.
Medical exceptions still apply, DeWine said, and children under the age of 10 remain exempt. Those leading or speaking at a religious service are also not required to wear a mask while performing those duties.
"I would also urge all my fellow citizens to not be judgmental," DeWine said. "If someone is in a store and they do not have a mask now, we should assume they have some medical problem. We should assume there is some very legitimate reason why they cannot wear a mask."
DeWine announced a travel advisory for anyone coming into Ohio from certain hot-spot states, as well as Ohioans who return home after visiting those states. States with a positive testing rate of 15 percent or higher are subject to the advisory. Those coming into Ohio from those states are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We’ve heard from many health departments that they’re tracing cases related to out of state travel, trips to states where there are high positivity rates, South Carolina, for example, Florida, are leading to outbreaks right here in the Buckeye State,” he said.
For now, the advisory includes Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Puerto Rico. The list of states will be updated weekly and based on a seven-day rolling average.
“It’s an advisory, not an order,” he emphasized.
DeWine also said he is concerned about spread at county fairs, but did not order their cancellation, even after mentioning a 19-case coronavirus outbreak linked to an unnamed county fair in Ohio.
“We want these fairs to continue, but they have to follow the rules,” he said.
Rules for the 2020 fair season include limiting spectators half the usual seated capacity of grandstands and not exceeding 2,500 in the stands regardless of capacity; mask requirements for livestock and exhibition judges and six feet of distance between participants and judges whenever possible; microphone sanitation and more.
“Everybody is going to have to own their own fair,” he said, and fair boards should look to local health departments for support. Ohio’s county fairs were given extra state funding earlier this year to help cover the costs of sanitation and other coronavirus-related needs, DeWine said.
WOSU's Gabe Rosenberg contributed to this report.