New state order: businesses must enforce mask wearing
- Published: November 11, 2020
Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday, Nov. 11, offered his strongest pleas yet to Ohioans to wear masks and take other protective measures to curtail the explosion of COVID-19 in the state.
“Wear a mask. Wear a mask so that your friends, neighbors and family members might live,” he said.
But DeWine didn’t stop at rhetoric this time. The governor issued a revised mask order for businesses in Ohio with a penalty for non-compliance, as well as indicating that the state would shut down restaurants, bars and fitness centers if COVID-19 spread doesn’t improve by the end of next week. He didn’t mention specific benchmarks for that decision, however.
“If the current trend continues, we will be forced to close,” he said.
And DeWine said that open congregate areas where people are holding parties would be subject to new restrictions given the “rampant spread of the virus” at gatherings around the state.
DeWine also reiterated that mass gatherings of 10 individuals or more, whether occurring in public or private settings, are still prohibited in the state. And he emphasized that Ohio “remains in a state of emergency” due to the pandemic.
The new mask order, a revision of DeWine’s July 23 order that requires Ohioans to wear facial coverings in public, requires businesses to enforce mask wearing among customers and employees, including posting face covering signs. The order also deploys a new retail compliance unit at the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to inspect businesses to ensure mask compliance.
Penalties for businesses’ noncompliance are a written warning for a first violation and temporary 24-hour closure for a second violation.
Mask wearing is “simply being ignored” at some businesses currently, DeWine stated, reiterating the efficacy of masks in preventing or slowing the spread of the virus.
As he has in recent days, the governor characterized Ohio as entering a new and more dangerous phase of the pandemic, with cases and hospitalizations exploding, and deaths soon to follow those trends.
“This surge is much more intense, widespread and dangerous” in comparison to previous spikes of the virus in the spring and summer, DeWine said.
The governor highlighted soaring hospitalizations as one area of concern. There are now close to 3,000 patients in Ohio hospitalized with COVID-19, including “700 in the ICU tonight,” he said. By contrast, the state’s previous hospitalization spike was 1,100.
If trends continue, health care staffing shortages could mean curtailing other health care procedures, DeWine cautioned.
The governor also addressed the impact of community spread on K–12 schools, saying that schools would not be able to remain open if the virus raged unchecked in local communities. And he praised colleges and universities for not returning to in-person classes after Thanksgiving, but warned that higher education might have to remain virtual come January if Ohioans don’t succeed in slowing the spread of the virus.
“Each of us has a moral obligation to do our part,” he said.
The governor started his statewide address with an optimistic summary of Pfizer’s “very effective” new coronavirus vaccine now in its final phase of testing. Until such a vaccine gets distributed broadly in the population, Ohioans must continue to protect themselves and others from the virus, he emphasized.
“As we wait for this vaccine, we have so much to protect,” he said.
The latest COVID-19 numbers from the state and county:
In Ohio, there were 5,874 new cases reported on Nov. 11, the second highest (after the prior day) number of cases in a 24-hour period. Additionally, 253 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the past day, including 36 in the ICU, and 76 Ohioans died from the illness. All of Ohio’s 88 counties are now “high incidence” counties for the virus.
In Greene County, there were 80 new cases reported on Nov. 11, the fifth highest number of cases in a 24-hour period. All five of those highs have occurred in November. The seven-day moving average for new cases in the county is now 86.