Worthington City Council approves legislation requiring face masks

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
HER Realtors agent Linda Bolden (left) and administrator Martha Petrucelli chat outside their office in Worthington on July 9. Worthington recently joined a growing list of central Ohio cities requiring people to wear masks in public. Masks also have been required in Franklin County per a state mandate.

People are required to wear masks in public in Worthington by both local legislation and state order.

Worthington City Council on July 6 unanimously approved by emergency an ordinance that went into effect July 7.

Worthington’s decision came one day before Gov. Mike DeWine announced a mandate that went into effect at 6 p.m. July 8 and applies to all counties that are designated as levels 3 or 4 on the state’s COVID-19 coronavirus infection-rating system. The list includes Franklin County.

Worthington’s legislation requires people in a public setting and most private businesses to wear a mask covering their mouths and noses in an effort to keep the virus from spreading.

It includes anyone taking public transportation, shopping in a grocery store, working in high-density occupational settings and socializing in outdoor spaces where people can’t keep 6 feet apart – considered a safe distance.

Fines are part of the ordinance, and businesses essentially will be on the front line of communicating the order with patrons.

For businesses, Columbus public-health officials would issue a warning for the first violation, $500 for the second and $1,000 for every subsequent penalty, according to the legislation.

Individuals also would receive a warning for the first offense and $25 for subsequent violations.

Law director Tom Lindsey said enforcement would be civil and not criminal.

Lindsey said the ordinance also has a sunset provision: It will remain in effect until Dec. 31, unless otherwise amended by council.

The ordinance included a number of exemptions, such as those exercising outdoors or at a gym, children 6 and younger, churches and other places of worship, driving or riding in a vehicle and school facilities.

In the case of restaurants, customers are required to wear a mask from the host station to the table and while standing or using the restroom.

As of July 6, Worthington had 174 reported cases of COVID-19 and 33 deaths – and all fatalities but one occurred in nursing homes, said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, public-health commissioner for Columbus, with which Worthington contracts for health services.

“We’re protecting each other wearing masks,” Roberts said.

In Columbus, public-health sanitarians would check on businesses and individuals outdoors, she said.

In Worthington, which contracts with Columbus Public Health for services, health workers also would be involved, according to Robyn Stewart, Worthington’s assistant city manager.

Roberts said she was hesitant to get police involved in enforcement, and sanitarians would not engage in conflict with the public.

Free testing for the coronavirus is available at Columbus Public Health, 240 Parsons Ave. Appointments are recommended.

Insurers will be billed, but there are no out-of-pocket expenses for visitors, Roberts said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary