The Columbus City Council voted on Monday, September 13th to require masks in indoor areas, vaccinated or not. The new mask ordinance is meant to replace an executive order signed by the mayor, Andrew Ginther. Mayor Ginther has to sign this ordinance as well. Council President Shannon G. Hardin has said that the COVID-19 crisis is still happening and hurting too many people, so mask mandates must be put back in place. The new ordinance says that anyone over the age of three must wear a facial covering in any indoor space.
Residents who don’t comply can receive a civil citation and a fine. Residents and businesses can be warned for their first violation, a $100 fine for the second, and then a $25o fine for any violations after that. Rules for businesses are different. They will also receive a warning for their first violation, a $500 fine for the second, and a $1,000 fine for all fines after that. City council has also said that law enforcement can enforce trespassing laws when residents do not wear masks on a premises, but they cannot do anything otherwise.
The ordinance went into effect on September 14th. Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts made comments on the new mask ordinance. Dr. Roberts says that the virus and the new delta variant is spreading quickly around the country and that communities have to do whatever they can to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and keep everyone healthy. She also said that people with mild or no symptoms are the most dangerous and are one of the reasons the virus is continuing to spread. The new ordinance is similar to the original that was passed in July of 2020, but now has a 30-day check-in window for Columbus Public Health to give news of the city’s COVID-19 status to the city council.
The mask mandate will stay in place until Mayor Ginther or city council puts an end to the emergency order. The ordinance was not received well in the council chambers on the night of Monday, September 13th. The people opposed to the mask mandate spoke over council members during the meeting. The meeting had to be suspended for ten minutes because the anti-vaccination protesters kept interrupting. People at the council meeting said the mandate hurts small businesses because they might not be able to force compliance. The owner of Ohio Bar Hop, Aaron Crater, said it is not the responsibility of businesses and employees to act on behalf of the state.
He, among others, wanted to make sure the ordinance was not passed. Crater says residents will take their business outside of Columbus, businesses in the city will suffer, and employees will be physically and verbally assaulted again like in the beginning of the pandemic. Many residents think the mandate is a good idea because the virus can’t continue spreading. Others have also said it’s going to be confusing not being allowed to take off your mask once you sit down in an establishment.
The vote was 6-0 and the indoor spaces include bars, stores, movie theaters, and restaurants. The mask mandate has come at an opportune time, since the number of cases has risen by 950 patients in the Greater Columbus area this past Monday and 250 of people are currently in intensive care. Hospitals are on the road to running out of beds in the ICU. Health officials of the city are concerned with protecting everyone, no matter what the risks to businesses because hospitals can not be overwhelmed again. The city is already on that road since 2,500 new cases were logged just last week.
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