Husted Clarifies Masks for Customers, Employees

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In an effort to further clarify who is required to wear some sort of face covering as businesses reopen, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted reiterated that customers are not required to wear them – but he implored them to do so.

The 20-member economic advisory group composed of business leaders from around the state unanimously agreed that wearing face coverings should be required of all customers and employees, Husted said. But after issuing the initial order Monday that face coverings would be required while inside businesses, the administration received complaints that, in some instances, doing so would be impractical.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine amended the order, lifting the mandate for customers. Additionally, Husted outlined some exceptions to the mandate for employers and employees during Wednesday’s briefing.

All employers and employees are required to wear face coverings with exceptions given to the following conditions:

  • When an employee in a particular position is prohibited by law or regulation from wearing a face covering while on the job.
  • When wearing a face covering goes against documented industry best practices.
  • When it’s not advisable to wear a face covering because of health reasons.
  • When wearing a face covering is a violation of the company’s safety policies.
  • When the employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workspace.
  • When there is a practical reason a face covering can’t be worn by an employee. Examples are individuals who work under extreme heat conditions, so the mask would be soaked with sweat almost immediately. Or if there needs to be a clear line of communication between workers and the mask could create a safety concern.

“These are all exceptions for employers and employees,” Husted said.

For any employer or employee who feels they qualify for one of the exceptions, they must be able to provide written justification upon request, he said.

Husted reiterated that Ohioans who can wear a mask should do so “out of mutual respect for each other,” even though they are not required. He says instances in which wearing a mask is required have resulted in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus.

“As we issue this new guidance, we hope that the same thing happens,” Husted said. “We want you to comply, not because it’s a government mandate. We want you to comply because you care about each other.”

There are reasonable circumstances for which people can’t wear a mask, including health reason, disabilities and sensitivity issues, Acton said. Other disparities are also apparent, she said, including a lack of access to even simple face coverings, such as bandanas or scarves.

But in her research of other countries that have, or have not, implemented mask-wearing mandates, the countries that did implement wearing face coverings saw decreased illnesses and death, she said. Such measures are particularly effective in countries where not wearing a mask while sick is considered impolite.

“We have to get there together as a culture,” Acton said. “This is a very big behavioral change for us.”

Businesses are still permitted to require customers to wear face coverings within the business. And while some businesses have said that puts them in an uncomfortable position with their customers, DeWine defended his decision to lift the mandate because “this was something that a significant number of Ohioans would simply not accept,” he said.

Instead, the administration will continue to promote the effectiveness of wearing face coverings as a means for Ohioans to protect others, not just themselves, he said.

“We can make suggestions. We made a lot of orders. And I’ve not hesitated to do that,” DeWine said. “But this was one where we felt that if we could continue to talk about the importance of wearing the mask, the importance of the facial covering, that people would start doing this. And I’m convinced that Ohioans will do this.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.