Ohio’s governor has reimplemented a statewide mask requirement as he threatened to shut down businesses if the COVID-19 situation in the state doesn’t improve.
“We are now at the most crucial phase of this pandemic,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a televised address on Nov. 11. “We’re in the midst of our third wave in Ohio.”
DeWine, a Republican, referenced the harsh measures he imposed in the spring and credited them with bringing the state’s number of COVID-19 cases down.
“But this time, things are much different,” he said, because of the winter season and people congregating indoors more.
The number of COVID-19 infections has risen to nearly 6,500 cases per day on Nov. 10 from fewer than 1,000 per day in September, state health officials said. The Ohio Department of Health reported 76 new deaths on Nov. 11, with the median age of 80 years old.
“We got to get back to the basics: wearing a mask, maintain at least six feet of distance from each other, washing our hands frequently, and not having parties, get-togethers in your house, and trying to get adequate fresh air into our homes, particularly as it’s getting colder,” DeWine said.
He reissued his statewide mask order with additional provisions. One requires each business to post face-covering requirements at all public entrances to the site. Another requires owners to be responsible for ensuring customers and employees are wearing masks. Those rules will be enforced by a new compliance unit, led by workers from the Bureau of Workers Compensation.
First-time violators will receive a written warning; those who violate again will be forced to close the business for up to 24 hours.
DeWine then said he was issuing an order putting new restrictions on social activities, such as barring dancing and games, before threatening to close restaurants, bars, and gyms unless the number of daily cases drops.
“These are places candidly where it’s difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus,” DeWine said.
Doctors in Ohio joined the governor earlier this week to call for controlling the virus, warning that they wouldn’t be able to adequately care for every patient if hospitalizations continue to rise.
There were 2,880 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide as of Nov. 11. About 24 percent of inpatient bed capacity was open, along with nearly 22 percent of the beds in intensive care units.
Not everyone was happy with DeWine’s new measures and threats.
“It’s very frustrating. We aren’t going to stand for it again this time around without taking legal action on our own,” added Ryan McFadyen, a gym owner.