Governor requires masks for residents of 7 hard-hit counties

(Public Domain)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP): Residents of seven Ohio counties will be mandated to wear a mask when out in public, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during a briefing Tuesday as the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 reached the highest count in at least 21 days.

The governor said the mandate will impact residents of Butler, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery, and Trumbull counties starting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Three of those counties are home to the state’s three largest cities, Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

Ohio saw 948 reported cases Tuesday, pushing the total number of probable and reported cases statewide to 58,904. The state reported 134 hospitalizations.

Residents in impacted 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. However, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said businesses will have to comply.

The mask mandate comes after DeWine announced last week that he will not be issuing a statewide mandate like a number of other states have, including Ohio’s neighbor, West Virginia.

DeWine pushed back against criticism that he has waffled on mask-wearing over the months, initially requiring them statewide before rescinding that mandate the next day. He said, “We’re now at a much more dangerous time,” and that he believes the public is now ready. He said imposing the mandate in just those counties that are “red hot” is fair.

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