COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With COVID-19 case numbers on the rise and statewide health orders essentially non-existent, officials on the local level across Ohio are doing what they believe is best to fight the spread of the virus.
Last week, both Columbus and Bexley implemented indoor mask mandates for public places.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said he would have preferred the mandate came from state health officials but knew it was the right decision for his community after listening to medical experts.
“Medical professionals and the epidemiologists on our task force are telling us about how full hospitals are right now, about how it’s difficult to get access to healthcare for non-COVID patients because of this surge in cases, so I think it’s a responsible and very easy step for us to take,” Kessler said.
Mayors aren’t the only ones making decisions as school boards and superintendents are also deciding whether to require masks in their districts. As of now, 53 percent of Ohio’s students are attending a school with a mask requirement.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has hinted that his hands may be tied due to Senate Bill 22 but other lawmakers disagree. The law, approved earlier this year, allows the General Assembly to rescind orders issued by the governor of the Department of Health as well as limit a public health emergency order to 30 days unless the legislature votes to extend it.
“Governor DeWine can issue a health order, it just gets, the legislature has a chance to review that after 30 days,” said Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).
Huffman did say he believed leaving the health order decisions up to local officials is best.
“It’s difficult to put out a statewide order and have it really be effective and do what you want with a state of 11 million people,” Huffman said.