DeWine clarifies: Masks now required for Ohio employees, recommended for customers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday relaxed his order on mandatory face coverings for business customers and clients, saying that after receiving input on his decision, mask-wearing will be recommended but not required.

The governor clarified late in the day that masks will still be required for employees under most circumstances.

DeWine said he recognized that the order covering customers was off-putting to many Ohioans who saw it as “one government mandate too far,” the governor said.

“I heard from a lot of different people who felt that, ‘I may wear a mask, or I may not wear a mask, but the government should not be telling me what to do,’” DeWine said.

As of Tuesday night, the first protocol on DeWine’s online list for businesses starting to reopen said: “Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.”

**For the full list of COVID-19 responsible protocols in Ohio, click here**

For employees, the recommendation is mandatory “unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, goes against industry best practices, or is not permitted by federal or state laws and regulations,” the governor’s office said.

On Monday, the governor said: “No masks, no work, no service, no exception.”

The turnaround on masks for store customers was the biggest concession the Republican governor has made to public opinion during the coronavirus pandemic, a time period which saw him close schools, bars and restaurants and dramatically limit public gatherings earlier than almost any governor in the nation.

Those decisions angered many at the time, but later won DeWine praise for acting quickly to slow the spread of COVID-19.

DeWine said businesses can still make mask-wearing a requirement for employees or customers.

DeWine also said Tuesday he’s seeking input from groups on how to reopen restaurants as well as barber shops and salons.

His announcement on receiving input from restaurants comes as the House Speaker said DeWine’s plan for when to reopen Ohio’s economy “disrespected” the wishes of fellow GOP lawmakers.

Lawmakers are frustrated that small businesses can’t reopen until May 12 even though national chain competitors haven’t had to shut their doors, Rep. Larry Householder said in a Monday night announcement.

“As long as small retailers continue to be shut down while national chains are allowed to remain open, government is assisting in the demise of many great small businesses,” Householder said. “The big get bigger and the small go away.”

Householder said DeWine’s administration hasn’t been willing to work with lawmakers on the issue.

“Our members feel disrespected that their opinions have been largely disregarded by the Administration,” Householder said.

But six major business groups, including the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and the Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are backing DeWine’s plan. An exception: the Ohio Restaurant Association, which wants the option of dine-in service to begin on May 15.

DeWine hasn’t set a timeline for bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses that attract crowds to reopen.

DeWine’s plan, announced Monday, allows many health care offices to reopen Friday, followed by construction companies, manufacturers and distributors and offices on Monday.

Masks will become standard for the foreseeable future, whether at the office, grocery or on the assembly line, DeWine said.

**For more on how to properly clean face masks, watch the video below**

Continuing coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, here, including the latest news from Ohio.

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