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Columbus To Require Face Coverings

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Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther plans to sign an executive order this afternoon requiring the wearing of facial coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. The order will take effect tomorrow and covers employees and customers in retail establishments, restaurants, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, day care facilities and day camps, and public transit. 

For now, Ginther said the city will rely on residents to take the order seriously.    

"Columbus Division of Police is not going to be stopping people on the street to issue citations, and Columbus Public Health is not going to be going into bars," Ginther said of enforcement. "It isn't just about the executive order and the power of the mayor or the power of Council to legislate. What this really is is a call to action for the community and asking people to step up their vigilance in fighting this virus. We need everybody to do it. We cannot enforce our way to success. We need compliance. We need people to step up and start treating COVID-19 with the same care and thoughtfulness as we did when the pandemic started."

Ginther added that he understands masks can be uncomfortable, especially on hot summer days, but wearing them can make a difference in the health and safety of residents. The order comes after a new single day high Wednesday in Columbus of 198 new cases. Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts says cases have been consistently averaging more than 100 per day with the highest illnesses seen in 20 to 39-year-olds. Roberts attributed the increase to human behavior rather than the economy opening up too soon.

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"It's about what we do, we have control over the situation," Dr. Roberts stressed. "Yes, retail and restaurants are open. But we can still go to those locations and practice social distancing and use a face covering. But if you look around and drive around town, you see in many parts of our community people are not practicing the social distancing and they are not wearing a mask. If we do that (practice social distancing and wear masks) we can continue to keep our economy going and continue to have some type of normalcy to our lives. Yes, I agree there is COVID fatigue. But if history repeats itself, the 1918 pandemic lasted two years. So this is not something that we're going to be able to quickly get over. Now the difference between 2020 and 1918 is we have science on our side, and we're likely to get a vaccine that they didn't have in 1918. But this is going to be something we're going to be dealing with for a long time."   

Roberts said she'll be asking bars to consider reducing their capacity by 50 percent. Columbus officials encourage anyone needing a mask or face covering to call the city's 311 line. Those with specific health conditions and kids under the age of six are exempt from the city's mask order. Ginther said Columbus City Council will consider companion legislation at its Monday session.  

Dayton on Wednesday became the first major Ohio city to enact and enforce a mandatory mask ordinance. Violators there face an $85 fine.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. He earned Broadcasting and Journalism degrees from the University of Florida.
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