Columbus City Council Adds Penalties For Violating Face Mask Mandate
Columbus City Council on Monday night voted to add penalties to the city's face covering mandate. The ordinance replaces an executive order issued last week by Mayor Andrew Ginther, and requires residents over the age of 6 to wear facial coverings in all public spaces.
The ordinance took effect Tuesday morning, and extends the requirement to both indoor and outdoor facilities where six-foot social distancing can't be observed. In a change from Ginther's order, residents and businesses that violate the city ordinance will now be subject to civil penalties after receiving an initial warning.
“We are in a sprint to get ahead of this virus,” said Council president Shannon Hardin said in a statement. “The number of positive COVID-19 cases in our region are rising, especially among younger people, and that can lead to a huge surge of infections threatening our entire health care system. We must act now to protect our neighbors and families.”
Columbus Public Health, not the Columbus Division of Police, will enforce the ordinance. Businesses face a warning for the first violation, a fine of $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 for third and subsequent violations.
Individual can face fines of $25 for second and subsequent violations. Those charged with violations may appeal their citations.
Under the ordinance, face coverings are defined as a "covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is simply wrapped around the lower face."
The ordinance makes similar exemptions as the previous order – those with medical or behavioral conditions are not required to wear face coverings, nor are first responders if the coverings interfere with their official duties. Religious facilities are also exempt.
The city ordinance does remove a previous exemption for buildings owned and operated by the state of Ohio, including the Statehouse. However, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says the city requirement can't extend to state lawmakers.
While there's no statewide requirement for face masks, multiple cities have moved to pass requirements as COVID-19 cases rise again, including Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. Several Central Ohio communities, such as Hilliard, Westerville and Bexley, passed their own versions in the last week.
Research shows that face masks are one of the most effective methods of controlling the spread of the coronavirus.