From celebration to caution: How local people are reacting to the end of the mask mandate

People across the Dayton region had mixed feelings Wednesday about the end of statewide health orders that eliminate social distancing and required masks in public, ranging from celebration to caution.

Dublin Pub owner Steve Tieber is looking forward to a no-mask future. The restaurant hosted a mask burning Wednesday evening, encouraging customers to throw their mask into a fire, symbolizing the end of a tough year for many.

“The overwhelming feeling is excitement,” Tieber said. “It is an exciting day, especially for businesses, after over a year since the start of the pandemic.”

The state requirement to wear masks in public spaces ended Wednesday for Ohio residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Social distancing requirements have also been loosened, but are still highly recommended in large public settings.

Non-vaccinated people are still encouraged to continue to wear their masks and adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines. Individual businesses and schools also can still require masks.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s lifting of the health orders represents an important milestone, the end of a nearly 12-month period in which masks were required in public spaces for all residents.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who contracted COVID-19 last year, posted a video of himself on social media Wednesday burning a mask.

But some local residents remained reluctant to eliminate mask-wearing from their daily routines.

“I think it’s a good idea. I personally am vaccinated, but I still wear a mask sometimes just because it’s more comfortable for me, I’m so used to it,” Miamisburg resident Madeline Moody said. “But I think it’s a good step to getting back to normal.”

Some people told the Dayton Daily News that they believe mask-wearing will never fully go away. Dayton resident Drake Haworth said she will continue wearing masks when she is sick as a courtesy to others.

“You wouldn’t wear a cutoff shirt to a fancy restaurant,” Haworth said. “You wouldn’t not put a leash on your dog if you are going to a dog park. There are things that you do when you go into public places just because you know it is for the common good, and I believe wearing a mask falls into that category.”

Kettering resident Jim O’Dell is thankful for the additional freedoms provided by the loosened restrictions, but encouraged his fellow Ohioans not to forget the struggles of the past year.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I like the fact that you can still wear them, but you don’t have to. I think there’s a lot of lessons learned for Ohio and our people here. I think it has taught us some discipline, some concern for our neighbors, for our country.”

The state reported fewer than 400 new coronavirus cases for the second time in a week. The Ohio Department of Health reported Wednesday a total of 334 new cases, bringing total cases to 1,102,890 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Currently 670 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, about one in 30 patients, the Ohio Hospital Association reported. In the past week, the state has seen an 11% drop in patients, the association reported.

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