COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW)– Ohio officials tried to clarify the state’s mask policy as some businesses prepare to reopen in May from the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a mandate requiring masks for employees and customers, citing recommendations from the business community. The following day, he reversed the requirement for customers because some Ohioans felt it was “offensive.”
“It was just too far. There were a significant amount of Ohioans who were offended about it and felt it was government overreach,” DeWine said on Wednesday.
The governor, calling himself an optimist, said he believes more and more Ohio residents will put on a face covering before entering a store. He added the state has been successful in flattening the curve, not because of his orders, but because Ohioans have stepped up to the challenge.
So here’s what the state officials said on Wednesday.
“If you are a customer in an Ohio business, you should wear a face covering, but you aren’t required. You should wear it to protect others. It’s about mutual respect,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said.
Husted said employees are required to wear face coverings when on the job.
There are the following exceptions:
- An employee in a particular position is prohibited by a law or regulation from wearing a face covering while on the job.
- Wearing a face covering on the job is against documented industry best practices.
- Wearing a face covering is not advisable for health purposes.
- If wearing a face covering is a violation of a company’s safety policies.
- An employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workspace.
- There is a practical reason a face covering cannot be worn by an employee.
Husted said if any of these exceptions apply, the business must be able to provide written justification upon request.
Businesses can still require customers to wear masks. Husted said business owners voiced concerns about enforcing the state’s mandate.
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton acknowledged face coverings are a culture change for us. In Asian countries, it is common courtesy to wear a mask when you are ill, she said.
The state’s top doctor has frequently referred to face coverings as another layer of Swiss cheese. It provides an added layer of protection when combined with social distancing. Acton also emphasized that wearing a mask is more about protecting the people around you.
“I’m telling you, if you want to do this, join me in this. Don your mask, don your cape. Let’s save lives together,” Acton said.
Under DeWine’s plan to restart Ohio, manufacturers, disbributors, construction and general office environments can reopen on May 4. On May 12, consumer, retail and services can open again. Plans have not been released for dine-in restaurants, salons, barbershops, gyms and day cares.