Ohio Governor now says masks recommended but not required


By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday relaxed his order on mandatory face coverings in businesses for employees and customers, saying that after receiving input on his decision, mask-wearing will be recommended but not required.

“Within the last 24 hours, it has become clear to me that a mandatory mask requirement for retail customers is offensive to some of our fellow Ohioans,” DeWine said.

The first protocol on DeWine’s online list for businesses starting to reopen now says: “Recommend face coverings for employees and clients/customers.”

On Monday, the governor said: “No masks, no work, no service, no exception.”

DeWine also said he’s seeking input from groups on how to reopen restaurants as well as barber shops and salons.

His announcement on receiving input from restaurants comes as the House Speaker said DeWine’s plan for when to reopen Ohio’s economy “disrespected” the wishes of fellow GOP lawmakers.

Lawmakers are frustrated that small businesses can’t reopen until May 12 even though national chain competitors haven’t had to shut their doors, Rep. Larry Householder said in a Monday night announcement.

“As long as small retailers continue to be shut down while national chains are allowed to remain open, government is assisting in the demise of many great small businesses,” Householder said. “The big get bigger and the small go away.”

Householder said DeWine’s administration hasn’t been willing to work with lawmakers on the issue.

“Our members feel disrespected that their opinions have been largely disregarded by the Administration,” Householder said.

But six major business groups, including the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and the Ohio chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are backing DeWine’s plan. An exception: the Ohio Restaurant Association, which wants the option of dine-in service to begin on May 15.

DeWine hasn’t set a timeline for bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses that attract crowds to reopen.

DeWine’s plan, announced Monday, allows many health care offices to reopen Friday, followed by construction companies, manufacturers and distributors and offices on Monday.

Masks will become standard for the foreseeable future, whether at the office, grocery or on the assembly line, DeWine said.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

CASES

The state has 799 positive or confirmed deaths, and more than 16,700 cases, including more than 3,300 hospitalizations, the Ohio Health Department reported Tuesday.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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PRISONS

Two prison employees and 19 Ohio prison inmates have died from COVID-19, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. More than 2,000 inmates out of about 2,500 at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive to date, while more than 1,500 of about 2,000 have tested positive at Pickaway Correctional Institution, where 13 of the inmates who died were housed.

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SCHOOLS

The Department of Education recommended that schools hold virtual, not in-person graduation ceremonies, as close to the originally scheduled date as possible, citing DeWine’s continued warnings against mass gatherings. Republican state Sen. Stephen Huffman criticized the recommendation, saying districts should be able to craft their own plans, and students and families can decide whether to attend any in-person ceremonies on their own.

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HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Two medical professionals who volunteered for front-line duty in New York City after the coronavirus outbreak hit worked together in the same emergency department for two weeks before realizing they shared Dayton, Ohio-area roots, the Dayton Daily News reported. Sarah Higgins, 34, and Logan Arbogast, 27, were so busy working 12-hour shifts at Elmhurst Hospital they hadn’t had a chance to discuss their backgrounds.

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RELIGION

The Catholic Bishops of Ohio announced they will extend the suspension of publicly celebrated masses through at least May 29, but they are hoping to resume those services during the weekend of May 30-31.

Last week, a group of 100 pastors thanked DeWine for not prohibiting worship services, but asked him to completely lift the stay-at-home order as of May 1.

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Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

Associated Press