COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Friday said he doesn’t plan on issuing a statewide mask mandate despite a growing number of coronavirus cases, believing that such requirements are needed primarily for counties with larger populations.
Earlier this week, DeWine, a Republican, announced a mandatory mask order in several counties. Governors across the nation have been under pressure to issue statewide orders requiring the use of them, as health experts believe that’s one of the best ways to prevent the virus’s spread.
“We have spread in every county,” DeWine acknowledged to CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Newsroom” Friday morning. “And we strongly recommend that everybody who goes out in public, no matter what county they’re in in Ohio, that they should have a mask on. But mandating it takes it to that next level.”
DeWine said most of the counties under mask orders have large populations, and he drew a contrast between densely populated counties and rural ones.
“Frankly, we don’t have to have everybody (wear a mask),” DeWine said. “But if we could get 80%, if we could get 80% of all Ohioans who would wear a mask out in public, keep the social distance, we’ll knock this thing down.”
Wearing masks — and government efforts to require them — have emerged as a political and cultural flashpoint. President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to wear one in public for months, despite encouragement from his aides, though he says he’ll wear one during a visit to the Walter Reed National Medical Center on Saturday.
In Ohio, several state officials have publicly flouted such concerns. Following DeWine’s mask mandate for several counties, Republican state Rep. Nino Vitale called for people to stop getting tested for the virus.
Sheriff Richard K. Jones of Butler County, one of the areas now required to wear them, said, “I am not the mask police. I am not going to enforce any mask wearing. That is not my responsibility, that is not my job. People should be able to make that choice themselves.”
Asked about the Sherriff’s comments, DeWine replied that he and Jones “disagree on this issue.”
“The evidence is abundantly clear,” DeWine continued. “Wearing a mask is one of the things that we can do that matters a lot. Social distancing, and the mask: you put those two things together, and we will make a big, big difference.”
He added: “For us to keep businesses open, for us to allow people to go to work every day, wearing a mask is going to allow this to continue in the state of Ohio.”