Ohio governor: Masks must be worn statewide, starts Thursday

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine passed an executive order Jan. 22 to reinstate funding after pandemic cuts.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that a mandatory mask order will be expanded statewide to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The mask mandate will go into effect Thursday evening for everyone age 10 and older, DeWine said.

The Republican governor in recent weeks had resisted calls for a statewide mask order and instead required masks just in counties that were considered “hotspots.” But he said Wednesday that more counties are seeing increasing numbers.

There are signs, DeWine said, that the rate of increase has slowed in those counties where masks were already required.

“It looks like wearing the masks is starting to have an effect,” he said.

Residents in all counties must wear a mask when out in public or in a place where they are unable to follow social distancing rules.

It will not be required for children under the age of 10 or anyone who has a medical condition that keeps them from wearing a mask. The mandate is to be enforced by state and local authorities, not by businesses.

Last week, the governor ordered Ohio residents in 19 counties, which include almost 60% of the state’s population, to wear a mask in public.

DeWine also issued a travel advisory that states anyone coming into Ohio from a state that has a positive virus testing rate of 15% or higher is recommended to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

He also said health officials are concerned about safety guidelines not being followed at county fairs across the state. An outbreak of 19 cases has been traced back to a county fair, DeWine said Wednesday.

“We want fairs to continue, but I spoke with county fair managers today and expressed that they must follow the rules,” he added.

When the pandemic started, DeWine won praise with aggressive steps to ban spectators from a sports expo and shut down all schools before any other state. But he then backtracked from a statewide mask mandate in April.