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In statewide address, DeWine issues new mask order

Inspections planned to ensure compliance

By AUSTIN JOHNSON

The Ironton Tribune

COLUMBUS — In an address to the state on the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new mask order, saying that businesses must enforce mask wearing between customers and employees.

If businesses fail to do so, DeWine said the first violation of this order will bring about a written warning and a second violation results in closure of the business for 24 hours.

Ohio is reissuing its mask order with three new provisions:

  • Each business will be required to post a Face Covering Requirement sign at all public entrances to the store.
  • Each store will be responsible for ensuring that customers and employees are wearing masks.
  • Ohio’s new Retail Compliance Unit, comprised of agents led by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, will inspect to ensure compliance

The governor also took aim at restaurants, bars and fitness centers saying, “If the trend continues, we will be forced to close Restaurants, Bars and Fitness centers.”

“We will look at this one week from tomorrow,” DeWine said.

DeWine stressed several times to Ohioans of the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding gatherings. He said what each Ohioan does impacts every school, nursing home, hospital and business.

“I know you are tired, I ask you to keep going,” DeWine said. “What you do in your private lives affects everybody”.

DeWine thanked colleges and universities in Ohio for reducing the number of students on campus, agreeing to not return to in-person classes after Thanksgiving and finishing the semester virtually.

The governor said “unless we dramatically slow the community spread of the virus, our higher education institutions may have to remain virtual when school opens in January.”

DeWine said if current trends continue, hospitals will not be able to give the appropriate care to all Ohioans and that the worry has shifted from personal protective equipment and ventilators to a shortage of health care workers.

“Today the question is about if we have enough people,” he said.

During the address, DeWine assured Ohioans if they follow the guidelines put out by the CDC, they have the power to change the fate of this pandemic.

“If we don’t change this, we won’t be able to provide appropriate care for all the Ohioans who need it”, DeWine said. “Today, hospitals are functioning as if at the peak of the flu season in January.”

In the last 24 hours, Ohio has seen 5,974 new cases, 253 hospitalizations and 76 deaths. Just on Tuesday, Ohio recorded 6,500 new cases, setting yet another record. According to the 21-day trend posted by the Ohio Department of Health, cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths are up.

“We are in the midst of a third wave, the most crucial phase,” DeWine said “This surge is much more intense, widespread and dangerous.”

As of Wednesday, all 88 counties in the state of Ohio have a high rate of virus spread.

DeWine says an increase in cases is not from additional testing.

“Testing has not even doubled, but cases have gone up almost four times,” he said.

Lawrence County is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday The Lawrence County Health Department reported 42 new cases. On Tuesday, the highest spike of 49 cases was recorded.

The LCHD has removed the section that shows the number of people out of isolation and the number of people who have tested positive because of the increased number of cases being reported.

“When things slow down a bit, we may reinstate that section,” the department wrote on Facebook. Since Sunday, Lawrence County has reported 149 new cases.

“As we approach Thanksgiving, please remember that when someone you don’t live with enters your ‘bubble’ it puts everyone you live with at risk,” DeWine said. “Even our family and our closest friends can bring COVID into our homes. They don’t do it intentionally, but it happens when they don’t know they have the virus.”

The governor advised precautions for those who do gather with people outside their household.

“If you are going to be with people you don’t live with, please just make sure everyone is wearing a mask,” he said.

DeWine spoke of the upcoming implementation of a vaccine. Pfizer announced this week that early results on the vaccine it has been developing have shown it to be 90 percent effective. Federal officials said it could be widely available by spring.

“As we wait for the vaccine, we have so much to protect, we can’t surrender to this virus”, DeWine said. “The vaccine could be here as early as December, and Ohio will be ready to get it out as soon as we receive it.”

The governor said the state’s priority will be to get it out to the most vulnerable and essential health workers.

“We will get through this because we are Ohioans,” DeWine said.