CLEVELAND — All people within the city of Cleveland will be required to wear face masks while out in public, according to an executive order signed Friday evening by Mayor Frank G. Jackson.
The measure preempts action that may have been considered by City Council, where Councilman Tony Brancatelli was intending to introduce legislation requiring the face coverings. The mayor's office cited "record-high" numbers of new coronavirus cases in the past few days (including 84 on Thursday and 47 more on Friday) as the main reason for the decision.
"The spike in coronavirus cases across the City of Cleveland warrants the mandated use of masks," Jackson said in a statement. "If Clevelanders do not heed these critical warnings and prevention efforts, the effects will be disastrous to the economy and, most importantly, to individuals and families. No one is immune to this virus."
In addition, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is expected to introduce legislation next week that would mandate masks throughout the rest of the county. Cuyahoga is currently under a "Level 3" health advisory based on a new system introduced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday, indicating "very high exposure and spread" of COVID-19.
"Cuyahoga County has been hit hard in recent weeks by an increase in COVID cases, as demonstrated in the Ohio Public Advisory Health System’s designation of a level 3 public emergency in our community," Budish said. "I am introducing this legislation to help protect all residents, especially our most vulnerable. Wearing a mask is a small sacrifice we can make to save lives and significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County."
Certain exceptions will likely be in place for the mask mandate, but have not yet been specified. The current stipulations of Jackson's orders are as follows:
- Mandatory masks for all individuals out in public or in public spaces including businesses, restaurants etc.
- Maximum capacity at any bar, restaurant, entertainment venue cannot exceed 50% of allowable capacity and must comply with social distancing standards
- Any establishment that upon two incidents of violating maximum capacity order will be ordered to shut down
- Mass Gathering Orders are still in effect; if incidents of more than 10 persons are gathered not wearing masks, enforcement actions will be taken
- If an establishment has an employee or a patron, who has tested positive for COVID-19, then the establishment must be sanitized to the standards of the Cleveland Health Department; failure to demonstrate such sanitization will result in the facility being shut down
- People should not gather during the Fourth of July holiday, except within the social distancing and mass gathering mandates, and shall wear masks and wash their hands often
Although he acted without the Council's authority, Jackson will still be introducing additional measures to the legislature designed to hold violators accountable. They include:
- A $50 fine for any establishment employee who fails to wear a mask
- A $25 fine for any establishment patron who fails to wear a mask
- A $3,000 fine for any venue that fails to practice social distancing; increases to $5,000 for each additional offense
- A $3,000 fine for any business that fails to follow occupancy limits; increases to $5,000 for each additional offense
- A $150 fine for any resident or business owner who hosts a mass gathering; increases $300 for each additional offense
- A $50 fine for each person not wearing a mask while riding in a vehicle with at least one other person (similar to seat belts)
The issue of face masks has become a hot political issue in recent weeks, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of their benefits in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Cleveland is just the latest community in Ohio to mandate their use, an action supported by the governor despite his refusal so far to require them for all Ohioans.
City Hall says these measures will be enforced by the Cleveland Division of Police and Department of Public Health. However, Council President Kevin Kelley is hoping most people won't face financial penalties.
"Our goal is compliance over punishment," he said during a Friday teleconference.
More than 3,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the City of Cleveland, more than all but three counties in the entire state of Ohio (including Cuyahoga). Of those patients, 76 have died.