COLUMBUS — In an evening address on Wednesday, Governor Mike DeWine reissued a mask order and social gathering order, while noting that closures of businesses, bars and fitness centers could happen unless virus numbers slow down.
“Throughout the pandemic, most people and most businesses in Ohio have done things right, by wearing masks and ensuring that safety guidelines are followed. We are grateful for that. It is those actions that kept the virus from spreading uncontrollably in the spring and summer,” stated the governor, before issuing new rules for businesses as to the enforcement of masks and possible consequences.
“Every retail employee has the right to work in an environment that is as safe as can be, which means all customers must wear masks. Further, each Ohioan who goes out to shop has the right to know that every store they enter will be safe and that everyone they encounter in that store will be wearing a mask. Our mask order, issued on July 23rd, says just that,” stated DeWine.
The reissuing of the mask order comes with three new provisions — each business will be required to post a ‘Face Covering Requirement’ sign at all public entrances to the store; each store will be responsible for ensuring that customers and employees are wearing masks; and the new Retail Compliance Unit, comprised of agents led by the Bureau of Workers Compensation, will inspect compliance.
The governor stated that the first violation for businesses would bring a written warning, with the second violation bringing a closure of the business for up to 24 hours.
DeWine also reemphasized the order which is in place regarding public events and private gatherings.
“Despite this order, we have seen rampant spread of the virus as a result of banquets, wedding receptions, and social gatherings following funerals. We have seen great tragedy associated with such events. It’s not the ceremonies causing the problem. It’s the party afterward,” said DeWine.
DeWine stated that a new order to be put in place puts new restrictions on social activities, including that open congregate areas are no longer open, with the order requiring everyone to be seated and wearing a mask unless eating or drinking. Dancing and games would be prohibited, stated DeWine.
He added that if cases continue to increase he will be forced to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers, something that will be reevaluated in one week.
“My fellow Ohioans, I know you’re tired and weary. I know you want this to be over. But in words often attributed to Winston Churchill during some of the darkest times in World War II, ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going!’ Tonight, I ask you to keep going,” said DeWine.
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Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.