Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday the state of Ohio will reinstate its mask mandate with additional provisions and said if the current trend in cases continues, universities could start the Spring Semester online.
This current surge of the virus is much more dangerous, DeWine said in a speech. The state has reported over 267,000 cases, while Athens County has reported 1,547, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The number of people who have been tested has not doubled since September, but the number of cases has quadrupled.
DeWine thanked universities for agreeing to not return to campus after Thanksgiving, but he warned that Spring Semester could have to start virtually if the trend doesn’t change.
“Unless we dramatically slow the community spread of this virus, our higher educational institutions may have to remain virtual when school opens in January,” DeWine said.
To combat the virus off campuses, Ohio is forming a new retail compliance unit from agents from the Bureau of Workers Compensation. They will be inspecting retail businesses and making sure they are following the mask order.
The first time a business violates this order will result in a written warning. The second violation will result in the closure of the store for a maximum of 24 hours.
“We must do this to protect our front-line workers,” DeWine said.
The state will continue with its limit of a maximum of 10 people at social gatherings.
If the current trend continues, Ohio will be forced to close bars, restaurants and fitness centers.
All businesses will now be required to have a sign that tells people to wear masks. Businesses are also responsible for making sure their customers and employees are wearing masks.
DeWine confirmed with hospital workers that the state of Ohio is still in a state of emergency.
DeWine said during this dangerous part of the pandemic, Ohioans must be wearing masks, not having parties or social gatherings, washing hands and remaining six feet away from others.
“The more people who get the virus, the more likely it will spread to all the places that we desperately want and need to keep open and operating,” DeWine said.
He said most businesses and people have been wearing masks and socially-distancing.
“It is clear that there are some businesses where mask wearing is simply lacking,” DeWine said. “We know that masks work.”