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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW)– Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged all residents to wear face coverings in public during his address on the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday evening. He did not issue a mask mandate.

“We must act and we must act now. My friends, this is not a drill and this is certainly not a hoax,” DeWine said. “The enemy is here and Ohioans have come too far in this fight to cede ground now.”

While some doubt the safety and legitimacy of face coverings, he said there is a broad consensus in the medical, health and business communities that masks are critical. He cited a Goldman Sachs study that masks can keep our economy open.

“Wearing face masks can be viewed as alternatives to shutdowns,” DeWine said.

Two weeks ago, DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health made face coverings mandatory in counties in Level 3 of the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System, which determines COVID-19 risk. Those counties included Cuyahoga, Lorain and Summit.

When DeWine unveiled guidelines for reopening businesses on April 27, he said masks would be required for customers and employees, adding, “No masks, no work, no service, no exception.”

The following day, the governor changed course. He said the policy would apply just to workers.

“It was just too far,” DeWine said on April 28 about his own mask rule. “There were a significant amount of Ohioans who were offended about it and felt it was government overreach.”

The Ohio Department of Health said there were 67,995 total confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 3,069 deaths in the state since the outbreak began.

In the last 24 hours, 1,316 cases, six fatalities, 160 hospitalizations and 36 intensive care unit admissions were reported to the state health department. The number in the hospital is a significant increase from the state’s 21-day average of 84.