Dewine July 15

Facial coverings in public will become mandatory statewide, effective Thursday at 6 p.m., Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday. (File photo)

COLUMBUS -- Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday afternoon said all Ohio residents must wear facial coverings in public, effective Thursday at 6 p.m.

"Last week, I called upon all Ohioans to wear masks when out in public. The evidence is clear. Masks work, especially with social distancing. These measures make a huge difference," the governor said as the state continues to battle COVID-19. "Beginning (Thursday) at 6 p.m., citizens in all Ohio counties will be under a mandatory mask order while out in public."

Previously, only people in "red," or level three counties, under the state's Public Health Advisory System, were required to wear facial coverings while in public.

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The new order changes that requirement. Richland County is the only "red" county in north central Ohio, which took effect last Friday. Ashland, Crawford and Knox counties are "yellow," level one, but masks in public also become mandatory in those counties with this new order.

"Wearing masks will make a difference. It will determine what our fall looks like. We want kids to go back to school, we want to see sports -- to do that it's very important that all Ohioans wear a mask," DeWine said.

"Citizens in yellow (level one) and orange-alert (level two) counties can make a significant difference by wearing masks. Doing this where the threat level is lower is key to help prevent a higher-level of spread. And so, it is essential that we wear masks statewide."

When the order takes effect statewide, masks must be worn at all times when at an indoor location that’s not a residence; outdoors, when unable to keep six feet social distance from those not in your household; when waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation -- taxi, car service, private rideshare.

The governor said children 10 and under are exempt from the mandate, as are people with medical conditions or disabilities; actively exercising or playing sports; officiants at religious services; actively involved in public safety or actively eating/drinking.

The governor also said the color-coded, county-by-county rating system, is being updated to include additional indicators.

DeWine said he also spoke with officials from county fair boards around the state on Wednesday. He said there was evidence requirements spelled out by the state are not being followed.

"Unfortunately, we're starting to see fairs that are not following safety guidelines. An outbreak of 19 cases has been traced back to a county fair. We want fairs to continue, but I spoke with county fair managers today and expressed that they must follow the rules," DeWine said. "I don't want to have to see (county) health departments shut down fairs."

DeWine reported 1,527 new positive COVID-19 statewide tests reported in the last 24 hours, as well as 16 deaths, 128 hospital admissions and 19 new ICU cases.

STATEWIDE TRAVEL WARNING

Governor DeWine announced today a travel advisory for all individuals coming into Ohio from states reporting positive COVID-19 testing rates of 15 percent or higher.

Those traveling from one of the following states should self-quarantine for 14 days at home or in a hotel.

Alabama

Arizona

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Mississippi

Nevada

South Carolina

Texas

The self-quarantine recommendation applies to those who live in Ohio and to people who are traveling into Ohio from any of these states.

"I know this will be hard and is a sacrifice, especially as summer vacations are in full force, but when we have a higher likelihood of being exposed, we should take precautions to limit the exposure of others," said Governor DeWine.

Ohio's positivity rate, which is an indicator of the percentage of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, has been around 6.2 percent.

Visit coronavirus.ohio.gov for tips on how to effectively quarantine.

INFORMAL GATHERINGS

Governor DeWine today urged citizens to use extreme caution when considering attending or hosting an informal gathering.

"We are seeing serious exposures to the virus that are arising from everyday events like church services, small house parties, neighborhood get-togethers, children’s sleepovers, weddings, and even bridal showers," said Governor DeWine. "This virus is real, and we cannot let our guards down."

COUNTY FAIRS

Following a 19-case outbreak linked to a county fair in Ohio, DeWine today spoke with fair managers from across Ohio to stress the importance of following safety guidance during county fair events.

"We've seen photos of packed grandstands and little social distancing," said DeWine. "We want fairs to continue, but I expressed in the phone call today that fairs must follow the rules."

Guidance for fairs is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

CONGRESSIONAL LETTER

Lt. Governor Husted today announced that Governor DeWine has signed onto a letter to Congressional leadership with 20 other fellow Governors from across the nation, calling for reasonable limited liability protections for businesses, schools, healthcare workers, and governments as they are reopened during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The letter calls for predictable, timely, targeted liability protections to shield employers from legal risks associated with the spread of the novel coronavirus, so long as they are following the appropriate standards of care to protect their employees, customers, and students. The letter specifically requests that the protections be drawn in a narrow fashion as to not give license for gross negligence, misconduct, or recklessness.

Similar calls for liability protection have been made by Ohio’s leading business organizations. In addition to Governor DeWine, the letter was co-signed by the Governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

DROPPING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

In the first press conference since Ohio’s latest unemployment figures were released, Husted also highlighted Ohio’s strengthening economy as the state responsibly restarts in the midst of the pandemic. Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped three percentage points in the last month to 10.9%. The Lt. Governor also highlighted how Ohio companies continue to go to great lengths to support their employees and customers.

HOSPITAL INDICATORS

Beginning with tomorrow's updated Ohio Public Health Advisory System map, Governor DeWine announced that the ICU indicator will be enhanced to address concerns in the event ICU levels increase due to reasons other than COVID-19.

The indicator will trigger if ICU capacity for a county’s hospital region exceeds 80 percent of normal capacity and if 20 percent of the normal ICU capacity is being used for COVID-19 positive patients.

"The 80 percent indicator is a good early warning to measure increasing utilization of ICU services, and this enhancement improves the indicator to ensure we are capturing developments in ICU utilization related to COVID-19 and changes from unrelated things," said Governor DeWine.

The Ohio Public Health Advisory System will also be updated in the coming weeks to include more localized testing data and an indicator related to known contacts spreading the virus when such local data is widely available.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"