Coronavirus: Officials urge mask use by customers to protect workers

Jeff Cooper, Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County health commissioner, is seen during an April media briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. SUBMITTED

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Jeff Cooper, Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County health commissioner, is seen during an April media briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. SUBMITTED

Montgomery County’s top health official and Dayton’s mayor urge people to wear masks while shopping despite Gov. Mike DeWine’s about-face on making customers cover faces as restrictions on businesses ease even as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise in Ohio.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Thursday said she’s disappointed that DeWine and his administration rolled back a mandate he announced Monday.

“This decision prioritizes the comfort of a few people over the health and safety of the rest of us — especially frontline workers,” Whaley posted on Twitter.

The following day, the governor said he realized the idea was “offensive” to many Ohioans and made wearing face masks while in stores optional for customers. It is still mandatory for workers.

ExploreCORONAVIRUS: Complete coverage from the Dayton Daily News

Jeff Cooper, Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County health commissioner, did not comment directly on the governor’s decision but encouraged store patrons to cover their faces.

“We would simply say that it’s required by employees and we would encourage all individuals when in public and when visiting stores and other venues to wear a face mask or face cover,” Cooper said Thursday.

The governor’s amended stay-at-home order, due out soon, will require all employees to wear face coverings unless there are health or safety situations where a mask is impractical.

MORE: Stay at home order to be extended with exceptions, DeWine says

Cooper said it’s not possible for Public Health to enforce the new mandate for employers.

“It’s going to be incumbent upon each employer, each business, to assure compliance with the face covering for its employees,” Cooper said.

There are many asymptomatic cases — people who have the virus and will never know in some cases — which is why everyone should wear a mask, said Michael Dohn, medical director for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.

MORE: Here’s what DeWine’s plan to reopen Ohio says, what businesses must do

A customer making a quick trip to the store might not encounter many people, but should consider the well being of the people behind the counter, Dohn said.

“The clerk at the convenience store will see hundreds of people that day. So his or her exposure is going to be many, many times greater,” Dohn said.

The coronavirus is still circulating and as the number of tests increase in May, so too will the number of new positive cases, Cooper said.

“Keep in mind the purpose of the covering is not to prevent infection for the person wearing it,” Cooper said. “It’s that if you cough or sneeze you are releasing fewer of those droplets or aerosols that someone else can potentially be exposed to. It’s simply one additional tool to help protect all of us.”

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As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 17,285 confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio since the start of the outbreak, and 742 cases that meet the CDC standards for a probable case. A total 133,148 Ohioans have been tested since the beginning. There have been 898 confirmed deaths and 77 additional deaths under the probable case definition.

Of the Ohio cases, 52% of people are identified as white, 25% as black, 11% unknown, 6% other, 4% multiracial and 1% Asian American, with fewer than 1% identified as American Indian, Hawaiian Native, or Pacific Islander.

Since the start of the outbreak, there have been 3,533 hospitalizations in Ohio from COVID-19 cases. There are about 991 people in Ohio currently hospitalized from COVID-19, according to Ohio Hospital Association as of Thursday morning. At the same point last week, 1,102 people in the state were hospitalized. This data comes from association member hospitals and might not include every hospitalization.

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In Butler County, there have been 281 documented cases, with 78 hospitalizations and seven deaths.

In Clark County, there have been 57 cases with 10 hospitalizations and two confirmed deaths.

In Champaign County, there have been 14 cases, two hospitalizations and one deaths.

In Darke County, there have been 76 cases, 14 hospitalizations and 14 deaths.

There have been 46 Greene County cases reported, including nine who were hospitalized, and four deaths.

In Montgomery County, there have been 285 cases, 93 hospitalizations, and 10 deaths.

In Miami County, there have been 139 cases in Miami County with 49 hospitalizations, and 27 deaths.

In Preble County, there have been 27 cases, six hospitalizations and one death.

In Warren County, there have been 146 cases, 27 hospitalizations and 11 deaths.

Staff Writers Jen Balduf and Kristen Spicker contributed to this story.

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