Mask enforcement at stores in place as COVID cases exceed 300K

Meijer meat team leader, Tyler Winthrop, stands next to one of the executive order signs at the entrance to the Meijer store on Wilmington Pike Monday. Winthrop said, that all customers have been very compliant to the order.  MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Meijer meat team leader, Tyler Winthrop, stands next to one of the executive order signs at the entrance to the Meijer store on Wilmington Pike Monday. Winthrop said, that all customers have been very compliant to the order. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Store owner says it gives them clearer direction on how to respond to customers

A revised order that requires Ohio retail stores to enforce mask-wearing took effect Monday as the state exceeded 300,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Some store owners who spoke to the Dayton Daily News said they didn’t expect problems with customers not wearing masks. Repeated violations could force a business to temporarily close, according to the state order.

Dorothy Lane Market has required face coverings for employees and customers for months, said Jessie Kuhn, marketing and communications director. Although it’s rare a customer arrives without a mask, the new state order gives its three area stores another tool to compel shoppers to wear face coverings, Kuhn said.

“It gives us clearer direction for how we can respond when a customer chooses not to,” she said.

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The mask provision is similar to a first order signed in July, but now allows the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) to order premises closed for up to 24 hours to allow for the dissipation of COVID-19 airborne droplets, according to the revised order.

“The main point of this is to emphasize the need for people to wear masks and to help keep the workers safe,” said Dan Suffoletto, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman. “If you’re going into a store and not wearing a mask, you’re putting those workers at risk. … You need to take into account other people, even if you don’t want to protect yourself.”

Citizens observing non-compliance of facial coverings should notify the Ohio Department of Health Call Center at 1-833-427-5634, according to the new order.

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Compliance efforts will be conducted by the BWC, according to Melanie Amato, a Department of Health spokeswoman.

At least 100 individuals from BWC’s Special Investigations Department and Division of Safety and Hygiene will work throughout the state to enforce the order requiring employers to post signage at entry points, require employees and customers to wear masks while on the premises, and ensure proper social distancing, Amato said.

“Investigators, acting on behalf of ODH, will enter a store or retail establishment, observe compliance, and talk to the manager,” she said. “If the retail establishment is out of compliance, the investigators will provide a warning on their first visit. Thereafter, if additional or continued violations are observed, they will issue a notice of violation requiring the business to close to the public for up to 24 hours.”

Sue Eckland, owner of two Greive Hardware stores in Kettering, said it’s also infrequent an employee has to deal with a customer without a mask.

"I’d have to say our customers are very cooperative, she said. “It’s rare that someone comes in without a mask. When they do, we have free ones here. We just run to them and say, ‘please, wear this.’”

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Throughout the pandemic, the state has recorded 305,364 cases. Monday’s report added 7,268 cases. Over the last 21 days, Ohio is reporting on average 5,006 cases a day, with a record high 8,071 reported Friday.

There were 20 deaths reported Monday, bringing the total to 5,742 since the pandemic started.

Today, restrictions go in place for mass gatherings that forbid most dancing at weddings and self-serve buffets and bars, according to an order signed Sunday by Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

A first order signed in April prohibited mass gatherings of more than 10 people along with exceptions for religious observances, funerals and weddings. However, to minimize the spread of COVID-19, funerals and weddings and other events at banquet facilities are now subject to further restrictions:

  • No socializing or activities in open congregate areas and no dancing.
  • Guests must be seated at all times. Traditional wedding reception events such as first dance, toasts, tossing the bouquet and cutting the cake are permitted.
  • If serving food and beverages, guests must be served at their seats. No self-serve buffets and no self-serve bar areas permitted.
  • Masks must be worn at all times unless actively consuming food or beverages. • No more than 10 people seated at a table, and those individuals must be from the same household.

“We have seen great tragedy associated with such events. It’s not the ceremonies causing the problem. It’s the party afterward,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

Ohio’s positivity rate also continued to climb Monday with cases and hospitalizations. On Saturday, 12.5% of those tested for coronavirus were positive, according to the ODH. Over the last seven days, the positivity rate is an average of 12.5%, the highest it has been since the end of April and almost double the 6.8% average positivity rate reported on Halloween.

As Ohio has continued to see record highs in daily cases and hospitalizations due to virus, DeWine warned Ohioans that if the trend continues bars, restaurants, fitness centers and gym could be closed again.

“We’re not talking about shutting down, we’re talking about slowing down,” he said. “This is a very crucial time. We’re asking people to reduce their social interactions for the next few weeks. We’re seeing tremendous spread because people are letting their guard down around friends/family.”

DeWine said Monday during a stop just across the border outside Huntington, W.Va., where many Ohioans are treated for COVID-19, that he would be making an announcement today.

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DeWine is still examining additional options to relieve pressure on local hospitals and plans to speak at 2 p.m. today, said Dan Tierney, the governor’s press secretary.

Eckert said DeWine’s revisions, particularly focused on mask wearing, are necessary to end the pandemic.

“The governor says that’s what we should be doing and it’s the right thing to do to keep everybody safe,” Eckert said. “I can’t wait for it to be over.”

What to know about latest mask order

— Anyone ages 10 and older must wear a mask or facial covering while in retail stores. Workers previously exempt from wearing a mask due to other health or safety guidelines are still exempt. Those who are unable to wear a mask due to developmental or health issues are also exempt.

— Retailers must be able to accommodate those who are unable to wear a mask by offering online or telephone ordering; curbside or non-contact pick-up or delivery; or by allowing them to wear a face shield that extends below the chin.

— Retailers must post signs about mask requirements and maximum capacity limits at all entrances. Signs should also include details about accommodations for those unable to wear masks.

— Stores should have 6 feet separation markers in all check-out lines.

— Hand sanitizer should be available in all high-contact areas.

— Retailers must disinfect high-touch areas and equipment, such as shopping carts, baskets, etc., after each used.

— Stores should have one-way aisles if needed to allow for social distancing.

— Retailers must require workers to stay home if showing symptoms.

— Stores should designate an on-site compliance officer for each location and each shift during all business hours to enforce mask requirements. Workers are required to enforce the order, but should not put themselves at risk of being injured or harmed in the process.

— Retailers are to allow Ohio Department of Health and local health department representatives or law enforcement to inspect public areas during business hours.

— If a retailer is found to be in violation of this order, law enforcement or state or local health department representatives will issue an initial warning to the business.

— A notice of violation requiring the business to close immediately will be issued if a second violation is found. The business must close for no longer than 24 hours.

— Any citizens witnessing non-compliance should call ODH at 1-833-4ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).

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