Under New Order, Masks Required for Trumbull Residents in Public

Update: 4:40 p.m. | Statement from the Trumbull County Combined Health District and State Rep. Michael O’Brien
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new order issued Tuesday by Gov. Mike DeWine requires residents living in an Ohio county under the red or purple alert levels of the Public Health Advisory System must wear masks when in public places.

Currently, seven counties are in the red, including Trumbull County. The order takes effect 6 p.m. July 8.

“Primarily this will be when they are in a public place inside,” DeWine said. “This order will stay on as long as the county is at a red level or purple level.”

The order, which DeWine referred to as a “surgical, precise approach” to address the issues in those seven counties, was issued by the Ohio Department of Health after DeWine met with health commissioners from the seven counties Monday. In addition to Trumbull, that includes Huron, Cuyahoga, Montgomery, Butler, Hamilton and Franklin, which is the only county “fast approaching” the purple level, he said.

Under the red level, the system advises “very high exposure and spread” and recommends limiting activities as much as possible.

Per the order, residents in red and purple counties are required to wear a mask or face covering in any indoor location that’s not a residence, which includes restaurants and bars, DeWine said. Masks are also required in outdoor situations when individuals cannot maintain the recommended six feet of distance from someone who isn’t a member of their household, or while waiting outdoors for public transportation, as well as riding/driving in public transportation.

Failure to comply will be treated a misdemeanor, as with other health orders, DeWine said.

“We’re not looking to see people arrested. That’s not the idea at all,” he said. “The idea is this is the norm. This is what is needed for Ohioans to stay safe. And if we are not able to successfully do this and carry this out, we’re going to see this virus take command again.”

In a statement released to media at 4 p.m., the Trumbull County Combined Health District reiterated the importance of wearing of masks, proper hand hygiene, avoidance of touching of one’s face, the conducting of health assessments, staying home when you are feeling ill and keeping high-touch areas cleaned and sanitized regularly.

The department encouraged Trumbull County residents to “all do our part” to mitigate the spread of the virus and release the county from the red level.

“We will never get through this pandemic if we do not all do our part to faithfully follow these seven measures and make them a part of our daily routine,” the district stated. “The wearing of masks, as well as the other risk reduction measures mentioned, will greatly reduce the risk of the spread of this virus to the most vulnerable in our community. Simply put … this will save lives.”

In a statement, State Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, reiterated that some Ohio cities have already implemented face mask requirements prior to the governor’s order.

“We don’t wear face masks to protect ourselves, but to protect others,” O’Brien said in the release. “While the coronavirus cases in Trumbull County continue to spiral upward, wearing face masks is the responsible and caring thing to do for our neighbors, coworkers, business and retail employees and family members.”

At the Eastwood Mall Complex in Niles, Trumbull County’s largest shopping center, signage will be posted reminding patrons that they are required to wear face coverings, spokesman Joe Bell said. 

“The way we understand it, it’s pretty straightforward,” Bell said. “We trust that people will be smart enough to understand that.”  

While the reminders will be posted throughout the mall property, mall personnel will not be responsible for enforcing the policy, he added.

Mall visitors already are wearing coverings of their own volition. “So I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of misunderstanding about this,”  he said. 

The order does not apply to children younger than 10 or to anyone who can’t safely wear a face covering, DeWine said. The order doesn’t supersede exceptions for situations when wearing a mask is prohibited by federal regulation, if a doctor recommends to not wear a mask, if an individual is communicating with the hearing impaired or if the person is inside of his own office or personal workspace.

It also doesn’t supersede guidance for schools issued last week.

The order goes into effect for any county that enters the red or purple levels. Currently, Mahoning and Columbiana counties are at orange and yellow, respectively. Once a county is no longer in the red or purple levels, the order is removed.

When asked if red and purple counties could see another stay-at-home order issued if the cases don’t improve under the mandatory mask order, he said he believes wearing masks in public is how the state avoids another shutdown of business.

“I think the biggest threat to us from an economic point-of-view is this virus continuing to go up,” DeWine said. “And that is going to make it very difficult for us to move forward economically.”

DeWine announced the order following an increase of 948 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, saying that the 21-day average of positive diagnoses continues to rise. Deaths because of COVID-19 are also up over the average, and hospitalizations are “significantly up,” with 134 hospitalizations in the last 24 hours, up from 77 the day prior.

“Our experts believe that there’s spread no matter what county you live in,” DeWine said. “It’s just a question of how fast the spread is occurring and how much the spread is taking place.”

Commissioners in the seven red states advised DeWine that they’re seeing spread taking place primarily during large family gatherings, birthday parties, graduation celebrations and funerals. One commissioner observed many cases among individuals with the same last name.

Additionally, more younger Ohioans are being diagnosed, DeWine reported. In the most recent cases age analysis, data shows that in March, residents in age ranges of 0 to 19 and 20 to 29 accounted for 2.4% and 12.2% of cases, respectively. In July, however, those percentages of increased to 13.2% for ages 19 and younger, and 26.4% for 20 to 29, the latter group now accounting for the highest percentage of positive diagnoses.

In some cases, the spread is occurring in the workplace, some tourist destinations and churches.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted reiterated that while businesses in all 88 counties are encouraged to urge customers to wear masks, it’s not up to the business owners to enforce the new order.

“It’s up to state and local officials,” Husted said. “But it is up to the business to comply and to encourage compliance with these rules.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.