A day after an executive order was issued in Westerville for facial-covering requirements, Gov. Mike DeWine announced most everyone in Franklin County would have to wear a mask in public.
The order from the Ohio Department of Health issued July 7 became effective July 8 in all counties designated as Red Alert (Level 3), which indicates an area of very high risk of exposure and spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
As of July 7, no counties had reached Purple Alert (Level 4); however, Franklin County was approaching that top tier, state health officials said.
“In addition to social distancing and reducing unnecessary interactions with others, we know that wearing a mask helps protect others in the community,” DeWine said in a news release.
“It has been, and remains, a very strong recommendation that I urge all Ohioans to continue doing even if you are not in a red-alert county.”
Ohio counties designated as Red Alert or Purple Alert are required to wear a face covering:
• In any indoor location that is not a residence
• When outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of the same household
• While waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, a taxi, a private car service or a ride-sharing vehicle
The order does not apply to children younger than 10 years old or any other minor who cannot safely wear a face covering. In an effort to support businesses and property owners, David Collinsworth, Westerville city manager, issued an executive order July 6 that was to remain in effect for 90 days unless repealed, rescinded or superseded by any public-health agency having jurisdiction, by order of the governor or by state or federal law.
It became effective July 8.
“Public-health experts and the CDC maintain that COVID-19 remains very much active, with cases increasing steadily statewide, and that the use of face coverings can save lives,” Collinsworth said in a statement. “It is imperative that we continue to heed the warnings and best practices to help limit the spread of this virus.”
Business and property owners, including government entities, were authorized “... to trespass from their property individuals who fail to wear a facial covering while such individuals are entering, exiting, waiting in line to enter or engaged in activities inside the areas of the property intended for the use of the general public,” according to Westerville’s order. The order continues, “... owners and operators of vehicles, including government entities, offering transportation services to the public, are hereby authorized to refuse service to individuals who fail to wear a face covering while occupying such vehicle or fail to wear a face covering while waiting at a transit stop or waiting area for transportation services."
The order also reflects similar legislation passed in neighboring communities and acknowledges Franklin County’s designation of Red Alert under the recently established Public Health Advisory System. It is a middle ground approach that empowers business and property owners to trespass noncompliant individuals from their property or establishment, according to a press release from the city.
In addition to the face-covering provision, Westerville encourages residents and visitors to continue following best practices from public-health officials to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Those steps include, but are not limited to, frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, maintaining 6-foot distancing and avoiding contact with the public if demonstrating symptoms of illness.