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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine not mandating masks; could be considered at county level

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said on Thursday that he's not currently prepared to issue a statewide order mandating the use of masks.

At multiple points throughout his press briefing on Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stressed the importance of wearing a mask in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

"The scientific data is absolutely irrefutable: if 80 percent of people wear a mask, we are going to have a decrease in the spread," he said.

But while DeWine admitted that it was a "logical question" when asked if he would be issuing a statewide mandate on masks in the state, Ohio's Governor wasn't willing to go that far. He did, however, say that such decisions could occur at a more local level based on the coronavirus data for each county.

"As we move forward into the stage we're in now, we're looking more at county by county," DeWine said. "We're going to try to get every county the data that they have and we're going to try to let everybody in those counties know where they are. As we see alarming numbers in Dayton, as we see alarming numbers in Cincinnati and Hamilton County and Montgomery County, these are conversations that we're going to be having with local officials about, 'what are the different things that we can do?'"

Asked specifically if he would be recommending mandating masks to these officials, DeWine said: "We're not there yet. We hope we don't get there. This is a discussion that we will have, that our health department will have with their health department and it's also a discussion that I will have directly with the mayors and directly with county commissioners and whoever in whatever area it is is the right authorities. 

"So these are not going to be unilateral decisions. These are going to be decisions that we make that are informed by the data and informed by discussions with local officials. But yes, we are looking at the state now in segments, we're looking at it in regions, we're looking at it in counties and that's what people should expect."

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DeWine's comments come on a day in which Ohio reported 892 new and confirmed coronavirus cases -- the most in a single day since April, when mass testing was occurring in prisons. Although Ohio has increased its testing, administering the most it ever has on Wednesday, DeWine said the recent spike isn't the result of more testing, with other information such as a decrease in average age and a rise in hospitalizations suggesting that the virus remains community spread.

In particular, Ohio has seen spikes in the Southwest portion of the state. Appearing via video, Dr. Richard P. Lofgren of UC Health said that the recent uptick in tests serves as a reminder of safety measures that need to be taken in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"This virus continues to live in our communities, but we can safely live with it if we are vigilant and understand the importance of social distancing, universal use of masks, washing hands, and sanitizing," he said.

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