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Ohio clarifies mask guidelines: Encouraged for customers, mandatory for employees

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton clarified the state's stance on wearing masks and face coverings.

On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said that masks or face coverings would be mandated for employees and customers as the state began the process of reopening its economy in May. On Tuesday, he walked that back, stating that while masks are still encouraged for customers, they'll no longer be mandatory.

Amid the confusion caused by the change, Lt. Governor Jon Husted did his best to clarify the state's stance at DeWine's daily press briefing about the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday.

"When you are a customer in an Ohio business, you should wear a face covering. But you are not required to wear a face covering," Husted said. "Why do we say we should? It's because it's out of a mutual respect for one another. This is a virus that you can carry and you don't know. We want to protect employees. We want to protect customers. Everybody should do it -- but you're not required to do it.

As for employers and employees, Husted said face coverings are required while on the job. Exceptions have been made for employers and employees with the following conditions:

  • When an employee is prohibited by law to be wearing a mask while on the job.
  • When wearing a mask is against documented industry best practices.
  • When wearing a face covering is not advisable for health reasons.
  • When wearing a face covering is a violation of the company's safety policies.
  • When an employee is sitting alone in an enclosed workspace.
  • When there is a practical reason a face-covering can't be worn by an employee.

Earlier this week, DeWine announced plans for Ohio to begin the process of reopening its economy beginning on May 1. Included in the state's plan was the news that retail stores will be allowed to reopen beginning on May 12.

As of Wednesday, Ohio has had 17,303 cases positive coronavirus cases, including 3,421 hospitalizations, 1,014 ICU admissions and 937 deaths. Dating back to the discovery of Ohio's first positive coronavirus case on March 9, DeWine has put a number of measures in place to encourage physical distancing, including a stay-at-home order since March 23.

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