DAYTON — The Dayton City Commission unanimously passed the ordinance that requires the wearing of face masks or protective coverings in public spaces.
The complaint-based ordinance takes effect at 8 a.m. Friday. Not wearing a mask or face covering in public spaces could result in an $85 fine.
Under the ordinance, people within the city limits will be required to wear a mask or face covering anytime they are in the public space or where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Examples include grocery stores, library branches, on public transit, retail establishments, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The ordinance does not apply where wearing a mask would not be practical -- such as when you are eating and drinking, or swimming, or undergoing a medical procedure or where physical distance can be maintained.
Before the vote, Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper, Public Health -- Dayton & Montgomery County, gave the commissioners background to buttress support for the ordinance.
He said that since the beginning of Responsible Restart Ohio, the county health department has documented a significant increase in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The phased lifting of restrictions has led to a surge in new cases,” Cooper said. “Obviously, when we look at all the data out there... because of the lifting of restrictions, that has sent a message to the community that the risk is lowered. Clearly, that is not the case.”
At an afternoon press conference at City Hall, Mayor Nan Whaley made the case for the ordinance. She said it arose out of concerns raised by the Ohio Department of Health and the county health department about the significant increase in positive cases in southwest Ohio and in Montgomery County specifically. The region’s business community, led by the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, also called for an immediate changes to safety and prevention measures, the mayor said.
“I know that no one is excited about wearing a mask,” Whaley said. “I know that wearing a mask is uncomfortable. know, unfortunately, that wearing a mask has become a political flash point. But I also know masks save lives. It’s a small sacrifice.”
Businesses and employers are being asked to take the lead on contacting Dayton police to lodge complaints about people who are seen not wearing a mask or face covering, Whaley said. Police will follow up to investigate each complaint and potentially pursue the imposition of the fine.
The public is not being asked to report on other people, she said.
“We’re not encouraging people to get into fights about this,” she said. “We don’t think this is a gotcha kind of thing.”
Whaley said it’s about a culture change on what it takes to be a good citizen in Dayton.
The city has distributed 45,000 masks to be prepared for the ordinance, the mayor said.
She said no community leader she has contacted expressed concern about the ordinance.
Dr. Michael Doan, PHDMC medical director, echoed the fact that masks and maintaining physical distance. In early March, when people were first asked to wear masks, PHDMC was seeing just more than 10 new cases a day on average. Recently, he said, PHDMC has been seeing 43 cases a day on average.
The number of people who are sick because of COVID-19 has risen as well, he said. According to PHDMC, 427 people are sick from the virus as of yesterday, he said, compared to 125 people who were sickened in the virus in the early days of the pandemic in Ohio and Montgomery County.
Support for the city ordinance has come from the Statehouse and the Montgomery County Commissioners.
Gov. Mike DeWine issued the following statement:
“I support Mayor Whaley’s and Dayton’s decision to require the use of masks in public places. It’s an appropriate and welcome response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in their area. Masks are recommended by the CDC and medical professional to help protect other people. Wearing a mask will allow us to help keep businesses open and help prevent further spikes. I encourage other communities to consider following Dayton’s lead.”
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, issued a statement as well:
“I commend Mayor Whaley for taking the courageous step to require masks in public. Each person has the power to prevent the coronavirus spread by simply wearing a mask. Control of this virus must not become a political weapon, but rather something each of us does out of consideration for our neighbors. I hope that other communities throughout Ohio will be inspired to follow Dayton’s lead.”
Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman said while the county does not have the authority to implement such an ordinance, “if we could, yes, I would. It’s the right thing to do.”
Lieberman said she thinks the only way a law on mandatory face masks could be countywide would be if Gov. DeWine ordered it.
“This was something that a significant number of Ohioans simply would not accept,” the governor said then. “And it was my judgment that that was a bridge too far.”
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