COLUMBUS — To try to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday announced face masks in public areas will be required throughout the entire state starting at 6 p.m. tonight.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state reported 78,742 cases of the virus and 3,235 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the daily number of new cases was 1,527, the second highest number of new cases since the pandemic began, and 16 deaths within the previous 24 hours from the virus. DeWine noted daily hospitalizations are above the 21-day average in the state and there are 1,098 patients hospitalized in the state with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, compared to 908 on July 9.
In Henry County as of Wednesday afternoon, there are 73 confirmed cases of the virus, doubled from 36 cases one week ago, and eight probable cases.
“We have to get this under control,” DeWine said. “What we do now will determine what our fall looks like.”
DeWine noted that counties identified as level three (red) on the state’s public health advisory system, which includes a mask mandate, have preliminary data that the rate of increases in new cases is slowing down and he’s hearing from local officials more people are wearing masks in those locations.
“It is making a difference,” he said. “I want to thank everyone who’s doing it. I want to thank the retailers who have been involved in encouraging people to do that.”
DeWine said that preliminary data shows the masks can help reduce the spread and they are cautiously optimistic they are slowing those new cases in the “red” counties.
“We cannot yet say that we’re at a plateau, but the rate of increase has certainly slowed,” he said. “We believe that, at least in part, maybe a lot, is due to the fact that more people are wearing masks.”
“The evidence is abundantly clear ... masks work and particularly when masks are used with social distancing,” DeWine said, quoting Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as stating that if individuals wore face masks for the next four to six weeks, it could “drive this epidemic to the ground.”
The levels on the state public health advisory system will be updated today, but DeWine said there’s indications in the preliminary data more level one and two counties will switch to higher warning levels.
“Our goal is, obviously, for those counties not to go red, that is just vitally important,” he said. “We know, from what’s happening nationwide, from what medical science tells us now, we know so much more now than we did at the beginning of this pandemic, we know that the wearing of masks in those yellow counties and orange counties will make a difference and maybe not turn red.”
According to the order, all individuals in Ohio must wear facial coverings in public at all times when at an indoor location that is not a residence; outdoors, but unable to maintain six-foot social distance from people who are not household members; and waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, such as a taxi, a car service or a private car used for ride-sharing.
The order only requires those 10 years old or older to wear a mask. Additional exclusions include:
•Those with a medical condition or a disability or those communicating with someone with a disability.
•Those who are actively exercising or playing sports.
•Those who are officiants at religious services.
•Those who are actively involved in public safety.
•Those who are actively eating or drinking.
“I would also urge all of my fellow citizens to not be judgmental if someone is in a store and they do not have a mask now, we should assume that they have some medical problem, we should assume there is some very legitimate reason why they can’t wear a mask,” DeWine said.
In a video update on social media, Henry County Health Commissioner Mark Adams noted states around Ohio are starting to implement similar mask mandates.
“Masks are not the only thing that is preventing the spread. We have to social distance, we have to wash our hands, we just have to really get back into these better habits again,” he said. “We had low numbers, we need to get back to that.”
DeWine also announced a travel advisory for all individuals coming into Ohio from states reporting positive COVID-19 testing rates of 15% or higher.
Those traveling from one of the following states should self-quarantine for 14 days at home or in a hotel. At this time, those states include Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. This list will be updated weekly.
The self-quarantine recommendation applies to those who live in Ohio and to people who are traveling into Ohio from any of these states.
Ohio’s positivity rate, which is an indicator of the percentage of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, has been around 6.2%.