Jon Husted

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted  during a speech at the Ashbrook Center in Ashland. (Richland Source file photo)

COLUMBUS -- Face coverings for employees will be required for all Ohio businesses as the state begins efforts to re-open the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Wednesday.

The announcement, which came during Gov. Mike DeWine's daily press briefing, reflects a third change in three days from the administration regarding masks.

On Monday, DeWine said face coverings would be mandatory for employees in workplaces and customers in stores and other businesses. On Tuesday, DeWine said  masks were recommended -- but not required -- for customers entering businesses.

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Richland County commissioners on Tuesday expressed confusion about the state's orders, mandates and suggestions.

They planned a meeting on Thursday with Richland County Public Health Commissioner Sarah Humphrey, other elected officials and department heads to discuss what steps need to be taken.

Husted tried to clarify the state's decision on Wednesday, saying the government was requiring face coverings for employees and recommending them for clients/customers at all times.

"If you are a customer in an Ohio business, you should wear a face covering, but you aren't required. You should wear it to protect others. It's about mutual respect," Husted said.

"Face coverings are required when you are on the job," Husted said, citing exceptions, including if the face coverings for a worker are not advisable by a healthcare professional; are against documented industry best practices; or not permitted by federal or state laws/regulations.

A face covering is not required if an employee is working alone in an enclosed office space, Husted said.

"If any of these exceptions apply to your business or one of your employees, written justification must be provided upon request," Husted said.

On the Ohio Department of Health website on Wednesday afternoon, the state listed five protocols for all businesses:

-- Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.

-- Conduct daily health assessments by employers and employees (self-evaluation) to determine if “fit for duty.”

-- Maintain good hygiene at all times – hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing.

-- Clean and sanitize workplaces throughout workday and at the close of business or between shifts.

-- Limit capacity to meet social distancing guidelines. Establish maximum capacity at 50% of fire code.

-- Use appointment setting where possible to limit congestion.

DeWine has announced that on Monday (May 4), general offices, distribution centers and construction companies can reopen. They can recall workers provided they meet state-mandated requirements. He said employees who can work from home should continue that practice.

On May 12, DeWine has said, retail and service businesses can re-start, again only if state requirements are met.

The governor has set no re-opening schedule for dine-in restaurants, bars, salons, gyms/fitness centers or child daycare centers.

CLASS OF 2020 GRADUATION

Governor DeWine reminded Ohio educators that they must ensure social distancing during any and all graduation ceremonies.

The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Health today issued the following suggestions for local schools and health departments:

Virtual graduation ceremonies (preferred)

Drive-in ceremonies where students drive to a designated location at a designated time to get their diplomas

Outdoor ceremonies with 10 people or less who are socially distanced

Additional guidance can be found on the Ohio Department of Education's website.

"Ohio has 612 school districts. Each school district must work with their local health department to make sure that their plan is in accordance with public health guidelines to deal with the pandemic," said Governor DeWine. "I understand how hard it is for the Class of 2020. This is not how any of us envisioned your graduation, but I am confident that our schools will be resourceful and creative in how they can honor you."

Governor DeWine also stressed that any graduation parties cannot exceed 10 people in one space.

CURRENT OHIO DATA

There are 17,303 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 937 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 3,421 people have been hospitalized, including 1,014 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.

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?"