What to know about the new mask order in area counties

Face coverings are now required in public in seven Ohio counties following a state order intended to combat the growing spread of the novel coronavirus in higher risk parts of the state.

Here’s what you need to know about the new order.

What is the new mask requirement?

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, a new Ohio Department of Health order will mandate face coverings in public in all counties that are designated as a Red Alert Level 3 Public Health Emergency or a Purple Alert Level 4 Public Health Emergency. These are the highest alert levels that indicate which counties have the highest risk from significant community spread of the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus Alert Levels: What do they mean?

What kind of places am I required to wear a mask? 

You should wear a mask when in any indoor public space, such as a grocery store or hair salon. You should also wear a mask when in an outdoor place where it is difficult to maintain a six-foot distance from people outside your household, such as if you are in a group gathering outdoors.

Face masks must also be worn while waiting for and using public transportation, as well as taxis, ride-sharing vehicles or a private car service.

Are there exceptions?

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

The order does not apply to children under the age of 10 or any other minor who cannot safely wear a face covering. The order also reflects the mask guidance in place for employees and businesses which does not require a person to wear a mask if their physician advises against it, if wearing a mask is prohibited by federal regulation, if communicating with the hearing impaired, when alone in an office or personal workspace, and other similar measures.

Schools that offer kindergarten through Grade 12 instruction should follow the guidelines set forth last week by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Health.

What counties have this requirement? 

Currently, seven counties in Ohio are designated at Red Alert Level 3 which indicates that those in these counties have a very high risk of exposure and spread:

Butler County

Cuyahoga County

Franklin County

Hamilton County

Huron County

Montgomery County

Trumbull County

How will the requirement be enforced?

As with previous health orders, not following a mask order will be a misdemeanor violation, DeWine said.

”We’re not looking to see people arrested,” he said. “The idea is that it is the norm. This is what is needed for Ohioans to stay safe.”

For questions about COVID-19 and state rules, people can also call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634). The Call Center is staffed from 9 a.m to 8 p.m each day, including weekends.

Huber Heights Police Chief Mark Lightner said his department will not be on “mask patrol,” but if officers are made aware of a violation, they will follow up on it. Examples of this include getting a complaint via dispatch or if an officer goes into a convenience store and sees someone in violation, they will give the person in violation a warning.

“If someone is receptive of the warning, we wouldn’t take it further,” Lightner said. “I think the main objective is to make sure people wear them and to inform them.”

If a warning does not resolve the problem, Lightner said an officer will document the incident and forward it to the prosecutor before charging or arresting anybody. Lightner said the department would also forward the incident to the Department of Health, in case they want to take any action.

“What I don’t want to happen is, I don’t want a violation of the mask order turning into a physical arrest and that person resists arrest,” Lightner said.

Since Dayton put its mask requirement in on Friday, Dayton Police Department received 12 calls about possible violations over the weekend.

From those 12 calls, two warnings were issued by Dayton Police, a city spokeswoman said Monday afternoon. Officers supplied one of the residents warned a mask to use, according to the city official.

When will the mask requirements go away?

The legal requirements will go away for particular counties if spread decreases in an Ohio county to the point that the county is no longer considered Level 3 or Level 4 alert. The state will update each Thursday which counties are at that level of alert based.

Likewise, if an additional county enters Level 3 or Level 4 alert, they will also have to abide by a mask requirement.

Last week, DeWine announced the creation of Ohio's Public Health Advisory System, which consists of four alert levels that provide Ohioans with guidance as to the severity of COVID-19 spread in the counties in which they live. Each level is calculated based on seven data-driven health indicators. More information on the indicators is on coronavirus.ohio.gov.

MORE: Dayton Children’s confirms layoffs

What about when I’m in other counties? Should I wear a mask in grocery stores and other public spaces when in other counties? 

Face coverings are encouraged for everyone in all counties whenever people are in public indoor spaces or are outside where they can’t consistently maintain a six foot distance.

“In addition to social distancing and reducing unnecessary interactions with others, we know that wearing a mask helps protect others in the community. It has been, and remains, a very strong recommendation that I urge all Ohioans to continue doing even if you are not in a red-alert county,” Governor DeWine said earlier this week. “In red-alert and purple-alert counties, however, we must do more to help protect citizens because the risk of spread is increasing even more.”

What if I need a mask? 

The city of Dayton is distributing 10 free face masks per household while supplies last at Dayton fire stations 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Proof of residency is requested.

Join us for a conversation on reopening

The Dayton Daily News will hold the next in its series of Courageous Conversations 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 16. The event will focus on the reopening of the community during the coronavirus pandemic. It will be streamed live on Dayton Daily News’s Facebook page.

Panelists will include: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley; Dayton Daily News health reporter Kaitlin Schroeder; Dayton Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Chris Kershner; Entrepreneurs Marketplace owner Tae Winston; Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County Medical Firector Dr. Michael Dohn; Mad River School District Superintendent Chad Wyen and Dan Young, co-owner of Young's Jersey Dairy and former Ohio Restaurant Association president.

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