City of Dayton restarts mask mandate

The city of Dayton again has a mask mandate for public indoor spaces, after city commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the measure.

Dayton city commissioners approved the measure Wednesday night after a hearing, and after months of hospitalizations increasing and local hospitals standing up new COVID-19 units.

Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County had pleaded with local governments to enact mask requirements, because a new state law doesn’t allow the public health department to create a mask mandate.

Under the provisions of Senate Bill 22, passed earlier this year, the legislature can also immediately remove mask orders done through the Ohio Department of Health.

Mayor Nan Whaley said masks can be uncomfortable and make conversations hard, but she described this move as a necessary step to keep everyone safe.

“We know it’s not popular to everyone. That is not our job. But it is our job to keep our people safe,” Whaley said.

As of Wednesday, 3,549 Ohioans were hospitalized with COVID-19, which means about 1 in 6 of inpatients are COVID-19 positive. Two months ago, 288 Ohioans were hospitalized with COVID-19.

City Commissioner Matt Joseph said the city needs to do something to lessen the amount of people going in the hospital.

“So we’re trying to buy time for more people to get the vaccinations and let other measures work,” Joseph said.

Commissioner Jeffrey Mims said his mother in the nursing home did not go out bring the virus into the facility.

“And she is no longer here,” Mims said.

While the vaccines remain highly effective at keeping recipients out of the hospital with the disease, the high rates of hospitalizations can effect everyone because a full ER and full beds limits the response to all emergencies. Several Ohio hospitals in other communities at times have reported hitting ICU capacity or having to reroute ambulances.

About 53% of Ohioans, or 6.2 million people, have at least started a COVID-19 vaccination. That includes about 62% of those 12 and older, which is the vaccine-eligible population.

More than 51% of those in Montgomery County have at least started a vaccination, according to state data. About one in 550 Ohioans have died from COVID-19.

The previous mask mandate had been contentious with some. After it expired one Dayton business even held a mask burning party. At times, the previous mask mandate also put frontline workers in the difficult position of rule enforcers, with some customers getting aggressive or arguing with staff.

Three speakers from the public weighed in, with mixed reaction.

“You do not have the freedom to pass on deadly viruses,” said Keith Lander, Dayton resident who spoke out in favor of the mandate.

Rennes Bowers, who is running for mayor and has described himself as a biblical conservative, said he is not opposed to masks or vaccinations, but said he is opposed to mandates and also felt the city had overstepped unions with some of its requirements.

“You way overstepped your bounds,” Bowers said.

How the ordinance works

The new ordinance requires face coverings for anyone 6 years old or older in indoor spaces that are open to the public. It allows exemptions similar to Dayton’s previous mask requirement, including while eating or drinking or exercising.

People with medical conditions, mental health conditions or development disabilities that restrict or limit their ability to wear a mask are also not required to comply.

“Due to the lagging vaccination rates in our county, mask wearing indoors is our best defense to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the number of people being hospitalized,” Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper said in a statement earlier this week.

When detailing the ordinance, the city said enforcement will be conducted on a complaint basis by business owners or employees who are concerned about a member of the public not complying while inside their location.

Owners or employees should first encourage the member of the public to wear a mask or leave the premises, and if they do not, then call 937-333-COPS to report the concern. Dayton Police will investigate the complaint and potentially issue a citation.

Public health officials are not in charge of enforcing this ordinance and people should not call public health with mask ordinance complaints.

Anyone not wearing a face covering in one of the required situations is subject to a fine of $85, according to the city of Dayton.

Members of the public should not confront or report one another, according to the city, and if a member of the public witnesses a person not wearing a mask inside a business, they should report that to a manager.

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