COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton held a briefing to discuss the latest efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in Ohio.

As of Wednesday, a total of 17,303 cases have been reported in the state, leading to 3,421 hospitalizations and 937 deaths.

Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted addressed confusion regarding the wearing of masks in the workplace.

Husted said there have been many questions about what is required for face coverings. Husted said the business group was unanimous in saying face coverings should be required for customers. They have since heard that would be impractical.

Husted said customers in a business should wear a face coverings. They are not required, however.

For employees, and employers, face coverings are required while on the job. There are exceptions for employees prohibited by law from wearing a face covering, when against industry best practices, when it violates safety policies and when its not advisable for health reasons. There is also an exception for employees alone in a closed work environment.

The governor addressed the issue of graduation ceremonies after his comments Tuesday caused a stir. He says due to the coronavirus, everything has to be different.

Governor DeWine said the guidelines are:

  • First and most preferred is a graduation is virtual
  • Second is a drive-in ceremony
  • Third is an event with 10 people or less at a time where a graduate can receive their diploma.
  • Each school must stay within public health guidelines

DeWine said when we look at whether or not to hold a graduation ceremony, social distance must be first and foremost. Mass gatherings can not be held for this reason or any other.

Governor DeWine said the state has been able to ship 4.1 million pieces of personal protective equipment across the state of Ohio. The PPE will be distributed locally by county EMAs. That shipment includes 500,000 N95 masks.

The governor announced Ohio will offer $16 million in grant funding for local authorities. Local law enforcement, probation officers, courts and victim service providers can apply. It can be used to help fight the coronavirus, things like cleaning supplies, overtime, and inmate medical needs.

DeWine is urging agencies to apply as soon as possible. There is no individual grant cap, but the money could run out.

Tuesday, Governor DeWine addressed the mandatory mask requirement announced Monday for people shopping in businesses. He acknowledged that some people find the idea offensive. DeWine said masks will no longer be mandated for customers in a retail setting, but rather strongly recommended.

Businesses will have the ability to turn customers away for not wearing a mask.

Timeline for phase one of reopening Ohio:

Despite the May 1 date of a gradual economic reopening, K-12 school buildings in Ohio will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year, and graduations are to be held as virtual commencement ceremonies.