Dayton once again has been requiring its employees to wear masks at work due to elevated local COVID levels, joining other local public agencies that also reinstated requirements to try to limit the risk of infection.
Montgomery County’s COVID-19 community level for been “high” for at least the last several weeks, and Dayton, Five Rivers MetroParks and Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County have all directed their employees to mask up at work.
Public health officials say people should take steps to protect themselves when there are high levels of COVID cases and hospital admissions.
“Regardless of whatever policy there is where you work, where you shop or where you are going, we’re recommending to keep yourself safe to wear a mask when you are in crowds and around others indoors,” said Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman with public health
Late last month, Dayton Human Resources Deputy Director Brent McKenzie sent a message to city employees saying the city has reinstated its mask requirement.
Dayton last brought back a mask requirement for city employees in July, when Montgomery County was designated as having a “high” level of COVID risk.
The mandate was later rescinded when cases and admissions declined .
Dayton’s updated policy says that city employees must wear a mask when they are on duty, except if they are alone in a vehicle or a closed office or they are outdoors and can keep six feet from others.
Visitors to the Dayton City Commission meeting on Wednesday night also were instructed to wear masks.
McKenzie’s message to city employees said Montgomery County once again had a high COVID transmission rate.
Montgomery County has had a “high” COVID-19 community level for multiple weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC usually updates COVID community levels for U.S. counties on Thursday evenings. Montgomery County’s COVID level remained high this week.
Meanwhile, Ohio in the past week recorded fewer than 14,000 COVID cases for the second consecutive week. It had recorded 16,000 cases for the four previous weeks.
Dayton’s decision to bring back the employee mask mandate followed the example set by Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.
The public health agency requires its 280 employees to wear masks when the county’s COVID community level is high, said Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman with public health.
Suffoletto said public health isn’t asking public and private employers to mandate masks, even when the CDC says the county has a high COVID community level.
But when it is high, individuals are highly encouraged to wear masks indoors when they are around other people, Suffoletto said.
Masks can help stop the spread of COVID, but the best protection is a “layered” approach that includes facial coverings, vaccination and socially distancing, he said.
Like the city of Dayton and public health, Five Rivers MetroParks makes mask decisions based on COVID community spread levels, and HR monitors this information weekly, said Hasani Hayden, the organization’s human resources manager.
Five Rivers MetroParks has required its employees to wear masks at work since Christmas Eve, and visitors are strongly recommended to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, Hayden said.
“Since the pandemic began, MetroParks has responded with the health and safety of its community, volunteers and employees top of mind,” he said.
MetroParks employees were last required to wear masks between mid-July to mid-September. They also had to wear them from December 2021 to the end of February 2022.
Other public agencies haven’t felt that mask mandates are necessary right now.
Dayton Public Schools on Dec. 29 announced that it was highly recommending that all students and staff wear masks when they returned from winter break this week.
Montgomery County hasn’t had a mask mandate since March 2022, and the county has no plan to require masks or vaccinations, a county spokesperson said.
The Dayton Metro Library also isn’t requiring staff or visitors to wear masks.
Dayton Public Service Union Local 101 represents about 800 city of Dayton employees who hold blue collar and clerical jobs.
Some union members are very unhappy that they are again being ordered to wear masks at work, and some have indicated they may collect signatures to petition city leaders to try to get rid of the requirement, said Kelly Yeaney, president of DPSU Local 101.
Yeaney said personally she thinks masks help limit the spread of infection. But she said some union members are fed up with masking and being told what to do at work, especially since other employers haven’t asked the same thing of their workers.
Yeaney said she expects the city’s mask requirement will come and go moving forward as COVID levels fluctuate.
“I think it’s going to go back and forth for a while,” she said. “We’re not over it yet.”\