Ohio’s new health orders and how they may affect your holiday gatherings

Coronavirus

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — Ohio continues to report high numbers of daily COVID-19 cases. 

“What we’ve seen, I think really since September and into October, is a backslide,” said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan on Friday.

In Cuyahoga County, that backslide could snowball. 

“By roughly this time next week at the trajectory we’re on we expect to see 1,000 cases a day in Cuyahoga County and by end of the month, we expect to see 2,000 cases per day,” said Dr. Johnie Rose, program director of preventive medicine residency at Case Western Reserve University.

At this point, officials say where we go from here is really up to the public. “Clearly something needs to change about our behavior,” said Rose.

Ohio’s interim health director signed a new state health order Friday which takes effect on Monday.

The governor hopes the order will help change that behavior by enforcing mask-wearing. “We have some places where it’s 10% or 20% wearing a mask,” Gov. Mike DeWine said during an interview with Fox 8.

The order requires all Ohio businesses to post face-covering requirement signs at all public entrances and make sure customers and employees wear masks.  

“For us, it’s not a change, I think it’s more of a change for the people that thought, you know, ‘let me get away with it,'” said Carlos Ramos, the owner of The Tea Lab with locations in Lakewood and downtown Cleveland.

Ramos says they never stopped enforcing the July mask mandate. 

“We’ve had a lot of people forget their mask in their car and run back. We do accommodate people. If you don’t have a mask, we’re gonna give you a mask. If you don’t have a mask, you’re not allowed inside the store,” he said.

Ramos says his employees know he has their back. 

“We have had some people who have been very rude, you know, I have a very young staff and they’ve used foul language against the staff,” he said.

To ensure the mandate is being followed, a new retail compliance unit, comprised of Bureau of Workers’ Compensation agents, will conduct inspections.

The first violation will bring a written warning, while a second violation will cause the closure of the store for up to 24 hours.

“We don’t want to be punitive but we just want to make sure you know that compliance goes up,” said DeWine.

But health officials are also seeing spikes from gatherings and are strongly discouraging people from different households from meeting up over the holidays. 

“They can connect through Zoom, they can put it off until a better time but we see that as a risk,” said Allan.

Ramos understands how tough it is not to see family members over the season but hopes people take caution. 

“I think if we miss one holiday season and have these people around for the rest of our lives, I think that’s a fair trade,” he said.

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