New Albany residents and visitors to the city must wear masks in a variety of public settings per an amendment to the city’s state of emergency declaration that comes in addition to state and county mask directives.

New Albany City Council members at a July 14 special meeting unanimously approved with a 7-0 vote an authorization for City Manager Joe Stefanov to add a mask mandate amendment to the city’s April 8 declaration of emergency.

Franklin County is under a mask mandate per the state’s alert system, which uses several data indicators to determine a county’s level from 1 to 4, with corresponding colors of yellow, orange, red and purple. Franklin County has been at Level 3, the red indicator.

Franklin County Public Health on July 14 also announced a mask mandate requiring facial coverings in public settings within the county.

Council member Kasey Kist said the goal is to keep the city health and safe.

“We don’t want to go back into a lockdown situation,” he said.

According to the amendment’s text, those in New Albany must wear a face covering over their noses and mouths when they’re inside somewhere that isn’t a residence, when they’re outside and can’t maintain at least a six-foot distance from people and when waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation including taxis and ride-sharing vehicles.

The mandate’s exemptions include eating or drinking in restaurants or bars, exercising and participating in sports activities. The mandate doesn’t apply to those younger than 10 years old, those who can’t wear a face covering because of a medical condition and those whose “sincere religious belief prevents them from wearing a face covering.”

Enforcement measures include an initial verbal warning issued to the business establishment owner or operator where the violation of the emergency declaration has occurred. A subsequent violation would result in a second written warning. Any additional violations may subject the business owner or operator to a fine of no more than $100.

A non-compliant individual, either in an indoor or outdoor setting, may be subject to a warning and/or prosecution for trespass or other applicable violations under New Albany city code or other jurisdictions.

The amendment remains in effect until the state of emergency no longer exists, as determined by the city manager and/or council members, in consideration of recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health and the Franklin County Department of Health.

City attorney Mitch Banchefsky said the amendment’s focus was commercial buildings open to the public.

Stefanov said the city would want to hold businesses accountable that are “woefully” neglectful of the mask requirement.

Public comment regarding the amendment was a mixed. A few speakers voiced opposition to the mandate and others offered their thanks.

Council member Mike Durik said he appreciated the public comment. The city always has to do whatever it can for the health and safety of its residents, he said.

“This is a critical and important issue to everyone,” he said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah