DeWine Lifts Order for Customers to Wear Masks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine has lifted the state mandate that customers to retail and service businesses must wear face coverings when those companies reopen May 12.

“It’s become clear to to me that a mandatory mask requirement for people shopping is offensive to some of my fellow Ohioans,” DeWine said Tuesday during his daily press conference. “I’ve heard you and we’re not going to mandate this. We’ll leave it up to the individual customer. For most people, for those who can do it, it’s a strong recommendation.”

It will be up to the individual business to decide whether or not they require visitors to their workplace to wear masks, DeWine added, noting that some businesses that remained open as essential businesses instituted such policies.

Workers are still required to wear masks on the job. 

“That is still part of the order. This is required of businesses,” DeWine said. “Many have been doing. We saw Kroger a few days ago went to make it mandatory for every employee. It will be fairly standard in the workplace.”

The initial order – applying to both employees and customers – was developed in consultation with business leaders from across the state, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted added.

“We talked to employers and they felt good about the policy. They felt good about having to inform customers they need to do it,” he said. “They felt very good about asking employees to mandate it on somebody.”

Wearing masks, DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton, prevents individuals from potentially spreading coronavirus, especially with many people having the virus and not showing symptoms.

“My biggest fear is that people won’t hear the subtlety in what the governor is saying in respecting the virus, respecting this threat. I support the fact that we’re not mandating wearing a face covering, but I strongly suggest we do so when we can,” Acton said. “What we do greatly puts those employees at risk. We might not now we’re carrying the virus when we’re talking to a person. … If I think about that person, or the person that’s three people removed from the conversation, not getting infected, I can don the mask a little bit longer.”

Among the best practices provided by the state are that retail and service businesses provide customers with face coverings – any mask that covers the nose and mouth – when they arrive, as well as providing the option for curbside pickup.

“Throughout this, it’s been individual actions that really make a difference. It’s how we flatten the curve. It’s your actions – or what you’re not doing – that have gotten us to where we are today,” DeWine said. “Your individual actions are so much more valuable that any order I issue, or Dr. Acton issues or the state issues. As we go forward into a new chapter, trying to get back in business and people back in their jobs, it’s equally important how careful you are.”

The governor also announced the creation of two citizens groups to determine courses of action for reopening restaurants and barber shops and salons.

“Whatever problems we have, there are always Ohioans that know more about particular areas than we do. We need to gather them together and get results,” DeWine said.  “This is something I truly think can make a difference.”

The governor has reached out to Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhoff and Minority Leader Kenny Yuko to identify business leaders in the fields. The groups should meet for the first time later this week, DeWine said.

In the coming days, a document answering frequently asked questions about what businesses need to do to comply with the guidelines for reopening will be posted, Husted said. Among the questions addressed will be what counts as a mask, he said.

“Lots of things can comply, as long as it goes over the nose and mouth,” he said. “There’s a variety of ways to comply with [these guidelines]. We’ll develop an FAQ to give specific guidance on these things, which we hope will clarify things for businesses.”

When it comes reopening, Acton said the process is akin to working a dimmer switch, rather than flipping the on-off switch as the state did in closing businesses.

“I can’t express enough how much goes into these policies decisions. We’re looking at layering, from the lowest risk, where there’s the least of us out an mixing around,” she said. “We want people to stay distant, whether at home or in their yard or in the park, similar to what we’ve been doing. You go from that to places that have more and more contact [opening later].”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.