Mask requirement begins today in Dayton

Dayton became the first large Ohio city to require people to wear masks in most public places, which city leaders and local public health officials say should help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Some strongly praised city leadership for what they say is bold action to try to stem a rising number of coronavirus cases in the region.

Supporters say while masks are a little inconvenient and uncomfortable, they significantly reduce the chances of transmitting the illness, which should save lives.

“I am going to wear a mask starting Friday,” said Jackie Carter, 50, who lives in East Dayton. “I think wearing a mask is good for safety and so that disease won’t spread.”

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But critics say the mask requirement infringes on their rights and question their effectiveness and whether local government has the authority to order their use.

Some Dayton residents told the Dayton Daily News they highly doubt everyone will comply with the new rules, and they expect there could be some pushback from reluctant community members.

“I know people who won’t (wear masks) and who are totally against it, because they think, like I think, that they are totally overstepping their boundaries,” said Jim Amidon, 55, who lives in the Twin Towers neighborhood.

Dayton moves on masks

An emergency ordinance took effect at 8 a.m. today in Dayton that requires masks or face coverings to be worn while inside businesses and public spaces or outside when close to other people.

Dayton’s new law passed unanimously by a 5-0 vote of the city commission Wednesday night. It requires masks in places including restaurants, bars, businesses, shops, libraries, health care facilities, hotels, motels, gyms and other facilities that are used by or open to the public.

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Violators face an $85 penalty that if unpaid can lead to a block when renewing a drivers’ license and other consequences. City officials say the order will be complaint-driven, meaning that police will consider issuing fines if business owners or employees file complaints against visitors and customers. City officials say they do not want citizens to report one another.

Columbus' mayor has issued a similar order that takes effect Saturday, and Cincinnati will vote on a mandatory mask ordinance today.

Darlene Goltz, 65, who lives downtown, said she’s glad the city took this step because it’s worrying and frustrating that local COVID-19 cases are increasing and many people do not wear masks or follow safe social distancing recommendations.

Goltz said many people seem resistant to wearing masks because they don’t believe or want to accept that the pandemic is real and scary and could last for a long time.

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Goltz said her daughter is a front-line nurse in hard-hit New York City and she’s also friends with someone who died from the coronavirus.

“I don’t think people are taking it seriously because our leadership is not taking it seriously — not in Dayton, but in the White House,” she said.

Goltz has sewn and distributed several hundred homemade masks. She said she thinks more people were wearing face coverings in Dayton on Thursday, likely to get used to the experience in preparation to obey the new law.

Lucille Battis was one of those people.

The 51-year-old Dayton resident said she has owned a mask for months, but never really wore it until Thursday morning, when she rode the bus and strolled around downtown.

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She said she knows the virus is spreading, and facial coverings must be important if the city is making them mandatory.

Battis said she's very worried about getting sick because she has diabetes, which puts her at a higher risk of experiencing serious complications if she becomes infected.

COVID fatigue

Battis complained that her mask is uncomfortable and makes it hard to breath. But she said she will follow the law and hopes others do the same to reduce the rate of community spread.

Battis, however, thinks people have lockdown fatigue and said they are fed up and might refuse to put on facial coverings.

“People are tired and just don’t care,” she said. “They got tired of wearing a mask. They think the crisis is over. They don’t think they’re going to get sick.”

Multiple residents told the Dayton Daily News they think the mask ordinance violates people’s rights of free speech and expression.

Amidon, the East Dayton resident, said he only wears a mask when he’s inside buildings where it is required.

He said he will wear a mask indoors in the city as required, but he won’t wear one outside, even if there are other people close by.

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Amidon said the city’s new ordinance sounds like the government is trying to take another step toward becoming “Big Brother,” where it regulates and controls people’s movements and actions.

He said he didn’t think the state should have shut down the economy, and he views the mask ordinance as intrusive and a step too far.

“I think everybody is going overboard with this coronavirus,” he said. “It’s just a different version of the flu, and I don’t know anyone who’s had it.”

Why people don’t like masks

Andrew Ebert, 31, who lives in Walnut Hills, said he won’t have to wear a mask because he has breathing issues because he has only one functioning lung.

But he said he wouldn’t follow the law anyway, because he thinks it’s way off base.

Ebert said he thinks the reaction to COVID-19 is “way overblown” and he’s not particularly worried about contracting the coronavirus, despite his medical issues, because he feels its fatality rate is very low.

Ebert, who describes himself as a libertarian, said wearing a mask should be a personal choice and he doubts they are effective. .

He said the city is likely passing a mandatory mask ordinance so officials can say they are doing something to try to calm and comfort citizens.

“It’s really a sign of, ‘Look, we’re doing something,’ so people don’t freak out,” he said. “They think doing something is better than doing nothing.”

Jennifer King, Ebert’s friend, said staying safe during the pandemic is really about common sense.

She said people who are sick should not go out, and people can avoid getting sick by keeping some distance from others and adopting good hygiene.

King said she thinks many people in Dayton are not going to comply with the new rules.

“I think there will be a large push against it very quickly,” she said.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the city will fine people who do not comply, because the goal is to change unsafe culture.

She said she does not want bars, restaurants and other businesses to have to close again, and the only way to prevent that is by slowing the virus’ spread.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s become a political flashpoint, but the data and science are irrefutable that this is the way we save lives,” she said. “We do not have a lot of tools on this disease.”

Whaley likened the new ordinance to stores requiring patrons to wear shirts and shoes.

“Those rules came into effect for public health reasons,” she said. “This is the same thing.”

Dayton’s new mask law

The law requires masks be worn in public near other people or in restaurants, bars, businesses, shops, libraries, health care facilities, hotels, motels, gyms and other facilities that are used by or open to the public.

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