After calling an emergency meeting July 6, Reynoldsburg City Council members have decided to wait a week to vote on a measure to mandate masks in public.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 13, at Reynoldsburg City Hall.

During a meeting held via Zoom and livestreamed on Facebook on Tuesday, July 7, more than two dozen people commented on a proposal that, if approved, would have required most people over the age of 6 wear a mask in public because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Council members decided to treat the legislation as a first reading to give city officials time to make sure the city’s ordinance complies with an announcement by Gov. Mike DeWine that the Ohio Department of Health has mandated facial coverings in public in all of Franklin County, effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 8.

For example, Reynoldsburg’s ordinance would mandate masks for most people over 6, but that likely will change to comply with the ODH directive, requiring them for those 10 and older.

The mandate announced July 7 by DeWine applies to all counties designated as Level 3 on the state's virus-rating scale.

Currently, seven counties in Ohio are at Level 3, indicating people in those counties have a very high risk of exposure and spread, according to a news release from DeWine’s office. The counties are Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery and Trumbull.

Before DeWine’s announcement, city officials said they consulted with the Franklin County and Ohio departments of health.

Reynoldsburg “finds that the safety of its citizens is best protected by implementing a requirement to wear face coverings in public places” including retail stores, gyms, public transportation and in any outdoor place where social distancing cannot be maintained, according to the July 7 draft of legislation.

It provides exceptions for exercising, eating and drinking and would require businesses to display a sign near the entrance with the requirement for facial coverings consistent with the ordinance.

The complete text of the ordinance is available at ci.reynoldsburg.oh.us.

More than two dozen people spoke or submitted comments to the council clerk.

Robert Barga, a member of Reynoldsburg’s school board who said he was commenting in his “individual capacity,” questioned whether the mask ordinance was an overreach by City Council.

“How should a member of government use their general police powers to better protect the community they serve?" Barga said. "What exactly is our job? Is to defend the helpless? Govern the budget? Build roads? Or to serve as parents?

“I’m not here to tell you how to do your job. I know my lane; I’m merely asking, do you know yours?”

Other opponents questioned the statistical validity of test data and said mask mandates violate personal rights, but most of those who spoke were in favor.

“I still have antibodies and still continue to wear a mask in public. I do it to set an example. ... I am young, with no underlying issues,” said Dylan Daniels, a teacher who said he contracted the coronavirus in March after attending an event in Worthington and has recovered. “I wear my mask for the community members who will not survive. I wear my mask for those who are dealing with other diseases that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.”

Anyone who violates the ordinance could be subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $25, and a business could be subject to a penalty of $150, but Reynoldsburg police officers would not be cracking down on masks, said city attorney Chris Shook.

“If there’s voluntary compliance, there’s obviously no enforcement,” Shook said. “It’s not a situation where we’re looking to be aggressive. Police will not be enforcing this ordinance as a primary violation.”

The ordinance also “prohibits enforcement after compliance with a warning.”

Reynoldsburg’s mask ordinance would automatically expire when the governor’s March 9 executive order declaring an emergency due to the community spread of COVID-19 is lifted, Shook said.

Other central Ohio cities, including Columbus, Bexley, Dublin, Hilliard, Worthington and Whitehall, have moved to require the wearing of masks in public, either through executive orders or legislation.

The July 13 council meeting will be conducted virtually and streamed on the city’s Facebook page. City Hall, 7232 E. Main St., also will be open for anyone needing to attend the meeting in person, but social-distancing guidelines will be observed.

Residents may email comments to council clerk Mollie Prasher or register with the clerk to make comments live via Zoom by emailing mprasher@ci.reynoldsburg.oh.us.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews