COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has issued a revised statewide mask order and further stated that bars, restaurants, and fitness centers could be closed if the COVID-19 case count continues to trend upward.
DeWine said during his press confernce on Wednesday that the COVID-19 case count in Ohio is not “trending down” and has taken “an immense human toll on our healthcare workers.” He said that another 5,874 cases and 76 deaths were reported since Tuesday. During that 24-hour period, 253 people were hospitalized, including 36 admission to intensive care units.
“In the spring, we wanted to be sure we had enough personal protection equipment (PPE),” he said. “Today, the question is whether or not we have enough people. Our healthcare workers are, quite frankly, exhausted. They’ve been running a marathon for nine straight months, and with this new wave and the onset of flu season, it’s like they’re starting the race all over again.
“If we don’t change this, we will not be able to provide appropriate care for all of the Ohioans who need it,” DeWine added. “All of the Ohioans who need it for COVID, and all the Ohioans who require other emergency care; things such as accidents and strokes and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but urgent care. Make no mistake, if nothing happens, this all could happen in just a few short weeks.”
The original mask order was issued on July 23 and required people to wear a mask “in any indoor location that is not a residence” as well as “outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their family/household.”
Under the new provisions included in the revised order, retail businesses will be required to post a “Face Covering Requirement” sign at all public entrances to the store. Stores will also be responsible for ensuring that employees and customers wear masks.
The third provision is the formation of a new “Retail Compliance Unit,” which is comprised of agents from the Bureau of Workers Compensation. The unit will conduct inspections to ensure compliance.
DeWine said there are consequences for businesses that do not comply with the revised order. A first violation of the order will result in a written warning. A second violation will result in the store being closed for up to 24 hours.
“Every retail employee has the right to work in an environment that is as safe as can be, which means all customers must wear masks,” DeWine said. “Furthermore, each Ohioan who goes out to shop, wherever they go, they have the right to know that every store they enter, every door they go into to shop, will be safe and the people they encounter in that store will all be wearing a mask.”
DeWine stated that if the current upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases continues across Ohio, bars, restaurants, and fitness centers could be closed. That determination will be made Thursday, Nov. 19, he said.
“I’m very well aware of the burdern this will place on employees,” DeWine said. “I well aware of the burden this places on the owners. But these are places, candidly, where it’s difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus.”
The governor also noted that the public health order that limits public and private gatherings to no more than 10 people remains in effect. DeWine said despite the order, “we’ve seen rampant spread of the virus as a result of banquets, wedding receptions, and social gatherings following funerals.” He said a new order will be issued in the next few days “that will place significant new restrictions on these social activities.”
The new order will proibit “open congregate areas” from being used at these events, require all attendees to be seated, and require all participants to wear masks, except when eating or drinking. Dancing and other activities will also be prohbited, he said.
DeWine stressed the urgency to “get back to basics” to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and keep schools and businesses open.
“Wearing a mask. Maintaining at least six feet of distance from each other. Washing our hands frequently,” he said. “And not having parties and get-togethers in your house. And trying to get adequate fresh air into our homes, particularly as it’s getting colder. What each Ohioan does in their own life impacts all of us. It impacts every community. It impacts every school, every nursing home, every hospital, every business. And the more people who get the virus, the more likely it will spread to all the places that we desperately want and need to keep open and operating.”