Dayton approves mandatory mask law, cites rapid COVID-19 spread locally

People in Dayton will be required to wear masks or face coverings while in indoor public spaces or outdoor areas where they cannot socially distance to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new law, which is effective at 8 a.m. Friday, requires people to cover their noses and mouths with cloth, fabric or other materials while inside places including grocery stores, retail shops, libraries, bars, restaurants or while using public transportation in the city limits.

“I know, including myself, that no one is excited about wearing a mask. I know that wearing a mask is uncomfortable. I know that unfortunately, wearing a mask has become a political flash point,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said. “But I also know that masks save lives. Masks are incredibly effective at reducing the spread of this virus.”

Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement in support of the mask law.

“It’s an appropriate and welcome response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in their area,” he stated. “Masks are recommended by the CDC and medical professionals to help protect other people. Wearing a mask will allow us to help keep businesses open and help prevent further spikes. I encourage other communities to consider following Dayton’s lead.”

Enforcement will be complaint-based, Whaley said.

Violators face an $85 civil fine, which if left unpaid could result in a license block or other consequences.

Business owners and employees should encourage patrons and visitors who are violating the new law to either put on a mask or leave the premises, and if they do not, they should call the Dayton Police Department at 937-333-COPS(2677) to report the violation, Whaley said.

“I want to be clear: We are not asking members of the public to confront or report one another,” she said. “If you witness a person not wearing a mask inside a business, please report this to a manager so they can respond.”

The mask requirement will remain in effect indefinitely.

Dayton city commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance Wednesday night that requires masks in public spaces. The city joins a growing number of communities across the country that have taken similar steps.

Masks will have to be worn indoors in places such as businesses, shops, health care facilities, hotels, motels, gyms and other facilities that are used by or open to the public. Religious facilities are excluded, but riders in taxis or ride-sharing vehicles like Uber or Lyft will be required to wear face coverings.

People do not have to wear masks while eating or drinking at a bar or restaurant or when impractical, like while receiving medical treatment, swimming or exercising, as long as adequate physical distance can be maintained, Whaley said.

Masks and facial coverings will be required outside only when people cannot maintain an appropriate social distance from non-household members, such as when waiting in line or exiting or entering businesses, officials said.

Not everyone is able to wear a mask, Whaley said, and the ordinance makes exceptions for children 6 and younger and people with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions that restrict or limit their ability to wear face coverings.

Appropriate face coverings include factory-made and homemade coverings, as well as bandanas, scarves, medical masks, personal protective equipment and other items.

Across the city, mask usage differs. At some businesses and shops, the vast majority of customers wear masks. At others, virtually no patrons have covered faces.

But masks, along with social distancing, are effective at stopping the spread of infection, said Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director of Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear a mask anytime they might be unable to maintain safe social distancing.

The city is requiring masks because COVID-19 cases are growing at an alarming rate, officials said.

While the data is preliminary, there appears to be three times as many positive coronavirus tests reported in June in Montgomery County than reported in May, with more than 1,015 positive tests reported as of June 30 for the month, compared to 332 positive tests in May.

Cases are recorded by the estimated date that symptoms started so coronavirus tests that will be confirmed in early July could still be added to the late June numbers.

Local hospitalizations have been increasing, indicating the growth in local case counts is from increased spread, as well as increased testing and detection.

As of June 30, there have been 25 COVID-19 deaths and 284 hospitalizations in Montgomery County since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials have continued to emphasize that these case counts are an underestimate, and the total spread in the community appears to be much larger. Nationally, blood test surveys by the CDC indicate about 1 out of every 10 cases are detected, though that number varies region to region.

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Dayton is not the only Ohio community to take this action.

Yellow Springs passed a mask ordinance June 15 requiring mask wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.

Masks have been somewhat controversial.

President Trump has declined to wear a mask in public appearances, and some people claim they are an infringement on personal rights.

Kaiser Family Foundation reported in a poll at the end of May that 74% of U.S. adults say they wear a mask either “every time” or “most of the time” when they leave their house and might be in contact with people.

That breaks down to about 58% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 89% of Democrats surveyed, saying at the time of the poll that they wear masks at least most of the time when they might be in contact with people outside the home.

The random telephone survey sampled about 1,100 U.S. adults evenly distributed among party lines.

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States that mandated face masks in public saw a greater decline in COVID-19 growth rates than states that did not, according to a Health Affairs study released June 16. The study looked at 15 states and the District of Columbia that first required face masks in public between April 8 and May 15.

The study authors reported mandating public use of face masks was associated with a reduction in the COVID-19 daily growth rate.

“These estimates are not small and represent nearly 16-19% of the effects of other social distancing measures (school closures, bans on large gatherings, shelter-in-place orders, and closures of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues) after similar periods from their enactment. The estimates suggest increasing effectiveness and benefits from these mandates over time,” the authors reported.


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