The Delaware County District Library now requires patrons to wear masks inside its four branches.

However, as of July 17, that order was at least temporarily irrelevant, as the state’s decision to move Delaware County to Level 3 (red) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System the previous day means the branches’ doors are closed once again to browsers.

The Level 3 designation also means masks are required to be worn in public spaces and businesses across the county.

The library’s board of trustees revealed its updated health protocol July 13 as part of an announcement that also tied library operations to the advisory system, the state’s color-coded plan that ranks counties from 1 to 4 based on factors related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

A mask mandate was not part of the library’s initial reopening plan, which went into effect in late June, but changing conditions and staff recommendations played a part in the update, library director George Needham said.

“Our staff were seeing people in our buildings without masks and expressed concerns for their own safety and for the safety of other library users,” Needham said. “With the increased (case) numbers, we felt we needed to recalibrate.”

Needham said there have been no incidents regarding mask-wearing in the district’s four libraries in Delaware, Powell, Ostrander and Orange Township.

No staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, nor has the library been identified in any contact traces from positive tests, he said.

Library spokeswoman Nicole Fowles confirmed July 17 that all branches would remain closed until the county returns to Level 2 (orange) or 1 (yellow) on the state’s scale.

However, the libraries continue to offer curbside or drive-through service and electronic access to materials.

If the county enters Level 4 (purple) and a stay-at-home order is issued, the library will stop all services other than electronic access.

Fowles said disposable masks for adults and children would be available at each branch when they reopen.

She said the mask protocol follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, requiring masks for children ages 2 and older.

Fowles said staffers would be allowed to “show grace” to parents of young children who are struggling to wear masks.

Needham said patrons will have to be flexible as the library system moves among its protocol for the various state designations.

“It’s for some clarity for both the public and our staff, where we can move within a day or two based on what the state is saying,” Needham said. “We’re trying to make a plan flexible enough to be responsive to fluid conditions.”

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