As Mask Mandate Approaches, Questions Are Raised About Enforcement

Jul 8, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine’s requirement that people in seven hot-spot counties wear masks inside businesses and in public places starting Wednesday night at 6 has raised the question of how it will be enforced.

Butler County is one of those seven counties marked in red on the state’s alert map. Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones made his position clear.

“I think we could have done this in a different way. But make no mistake about it, I as the Butler County Sheriff am not enforcing any mask wearing whatsoever," Jones said in a press conference on Facebook, to which he tweeted out a link.

The Cincinnati and Columbus police departments also say they won’t enforce county or city mask mandates.

A spokesman for DeWine said the goal isn’t to lock people up, but to get them to simply wear masks. He says health departments would enforce the mandate, and that law enforcement would only get involved in extreme circumstances, such as a person deliberately trying to infect others with coronavirus or disrupting business by refusing to comply with the mask mandate.

The mask mandate order has no expiration time, and DeWine has said that the order expires in each county as its case numbers drop and it no longer is listed as "red" or "purple" on the state's public health advisory system map. No counties have yet moved into the "purple" category.

And with some Republican state lawmakers' vocal and public opposition to wearing masks, there are  questions about whether Gov. Mike DeWine’s mandate could be enforced on legislators.

Attorney General Dave Yost, who has said the city of Columbus’ mask mandate doesn’t apply to elected state lawmakers and state officials on Capitol Square, referred the question about DeWine’s mask mandate back to the governor’s office.

A spokesman said DeWine respects that each branch of government has its own rules, implying the governor’s order wouldn’t cover state lawmakers. But the spokesman said DeWine encourages them to join the state agencies under the executive branch’s control in wearing masks.