On July 7, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Health will issue an order requiring residents of counties in which there is a high risk for transmission of COVID-19 to wear face coverings. This requirement takes effect at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.
Ohio has four classifications for each county’s COVID-19 transmission risk, with level 1 (yellow) being the lowest risk and level 4 (purple) being the highest level. Under the forthcoming Order, if a county reaches level 3 (red) or above, residents of the county must wear face coverings in three situations:
- Any indoor location that is not a residence;
- Outdoors when social distancing between those not of the same household is not feasible; and
- Waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, a taxi, a private car service, or ride-sharing vehicles.
Masks are not required in private or rental vehicles where members of a family are sharing a vehicle. Additionally, if you are traveling in a vehicle through a county in which there is a mask requirement and do not stop in that county, the mask requirement does not apply. The Ohio counties that currently meet the criteria to trigger the mask-wearing requirement are Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery, Clermont, Pickaway, Fairfield, Wood, Lorain and Summit and Trumbull. New counties could be added each day depending on the number of cases per county.
The Order is not universal, however, and there are exceptions, which include but are not limited to:
- Children under 10 years old;
- People whose physicians advise against wearing a mask;
- Locations where wearing a mask is prohibited by federal regulation;
- Communicating with people who are hearing-impaired;
- Officiants of religious services;
- Patrons at a restaurant or bar actively consuming food and beverage; and
- Workers who are alone in their office or personal workspace.
Regarding potential penalties for non-compliance, the current penalty for violating an Ohio health order is a second-degree misdemeanor with the potentiality of up to 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $750.
The Order specifically addresses steps businesses are to take, which include but are not limited to:This Order is not the only face covering mandate in place within the State of Ohio. Recently, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance to require individuals to wear masks indoors in public places starting July 9. The City of Cincinnati’s order will be enforced by the Cincinnati Health Department.
- Encouraging working from home when possible;
- Having employees who have been ill stay home at least 72 hours after they are free of fever and symptoms have improved, and ensure they do not return to work until at least 7 days after they first exhibited symptoms of illness;
- Caveat: in this situation the Order states to not require a physician’s note to validate the illness, as that may overwhelm physicians’ clinical capacity
- Updating sick leave policies to ensure they are non-putative so employees have sufficient time off to care for themselves and family members;
- Frequently cleaning and sanitizing workplace surfaces; and
- Separating employees with acute respiratory illnesses from each other and sending them home immediately, restricting their access to the workplace until they recover.
- Caveat: in this situation, the Order states to not require a physician’s note to validate employees’ return to work, as that may overwhelm physicians’ clinical capacity
Additionally, a consortium of chambers of commerce in Cincinnati created the Restart Task Force that has published series of marketing materials businesses may use as well as sample plans to implement for employees to safely return to work. These materials are available at https://restartcincinnati.com/. Businesses looking to craft mask wearing protocols and safe return plans should contact DBL Law for advice, as every business is different and has unique needs.
You can find the full Order at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/publicorders/Directors-Order-Facial-Coverings.pdf.