The Ohio Department of Health's order requiring people in Butler and Hamilton counties (and the rest of the seven "red" alert counties in Ohio) to wear a face mask in public went into effect at 6 p.m. July 8.
The order is in effect for each county until they are no longer in the red under Ohio's new Public Health Advisory Alert System.
A Level 3: Red code means a county has very high exposure and spread of COVID-19 — in workplaces, social settings, long-term care facilities. Guidelines for residents in red counties, in addition to the new mask requirement, include to limit activities as much as possible; consider online options, even for church services; consider necessary travel only; and to limit attending gatherings of any kind.
But back to the masks.
According to the order, here's when you need to wear them:
- In any indoor location that is not a residence;
- If you're outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from individuals who are not members of your household;
- Or while waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, a taxi, a private car service or a ride sharing vehicle. This does not apply to private or rental vehicles where members of a family are sharing a vehicle. This does not apply to vehicles engaged in direct travel through a county that does not stop in that county.
Here's when you don't:
- If you're 10 or younger;
- If the person has a medical condition, including a respiratory condition that restricts breathing; mental health condition; or disability that contraindicates the wearing of a facial covering;
- If you're seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability where the mouth is essential for communication;
- If you are alone in an enclosed space, like an office, which is not intended for public use;
- If you're actively engaged in exercise in a gym or indoor facility as long as 6 feet or more of distance can be maintained between you and another individual;
- If you're actively participating in athletic practice, a scrimmage or competition permitted under the Department of Health order;
- If you're actively engaged in a public safety capacity, like law enforcement, firefighting or emergency medicine;
- If you're seated and consuming food or beverages in a restaurant or bar;
- If facial coverings are prohibited by law or regulation;
- If facial coverings are a violation of documented industry standards;
- If facial coverings are a violation of a business's documented safety policies;
- If you're actively engaged in broadcast communications;
- Or if you're an officiant of a religious service
Also no part of this order supersedes any other regarding mask use on school grounds. And it does not apply to jails or prison facilities.
It will fall to local health departments to enforce the order.
In a press briefing on July 8, Interim Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said, "I think it's really important to realize when the governor rolled this out a couple days ago, he didn't call this a mask enforcement mandate, he called this a mandate to wear masks. The word 'enforcement' is really just one piece of the entire puzzle for getting compliance."
He says his team has always been about education over enforcement.
"Our goal has been to work with individuals to help them understand what is required to get through this pandemic," he says, adding anyone who doesn't have a mask, they'll give a mask.
And if you really want to dig in to the ins and outs of the order, you can read it in its entirety below.