Chief Justice Speaks Out On Masks, Rights And "Duty To Fellow Ohioans"

Jul 10, 2020

Ohioans in a total of 12 counties will be required to wear masks starting Friday at 6pm. But there continue to be questions about the enforcement and legality of that and other public health orders, as lawmakers push back on some of the state’s COVID-19 responses.

Shutdown orders and the mask mandate have brought clashes among Gov. Mike DeWine, state lawmakers, local government entities and individuals.

In an interview on "The State of Ohio", Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said there are no cases before the court that could settle who has the authority to do what. But she has heard recent statements made by some lawmakers and citizens who oppose those orders.

“People will tell you, ‘I have a right not to wear a mask. I have a right not to do this or I have a right to do this’ or whatever, and nobody focuses on their duty. What’s your duty to society?" O'Connor said. "What’s your duty to your community? Your right not to wear a mask and potentially spread disease – what about your duty to your fellow Ohioans?”

State lawmakers have passed a bill reducing fines and prohibiting jail and criminal convictions for violating state or local health departments orders.

DeWine said he’ll veto it, saying those orders are tools to try to keep Ohioans safe.

“We have to treat it like the crisis it is," DeWine said. "And having the ability, the tools to very carefully do things that need to be done is an essential part of that.”