Columbus City Council passes indoor mask ordinance to fight COVID-19

Columbus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus City Council approved an indoor mask mandate for the city Monday evening.

During the council’s first meeting back after summer recess, the ordinance was approved unanimously.

Last week, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther issued an indoor mask mandate through executive order.

During Monday’s meeting, sounds of booing filled council chambers moments after council passed the mandate.

“All individuals within the City of Columbus shall wear a face covering over the individual’s nose and mouth in indoor areas accessible to the public and within the confines of public or private transportation regulated by the City of Columbus,” the approved ordinance states.

When the ordinance was first introduced, council paused the meeting for a recess since some against the mandate were speaking over council members outside of the public comment period of the meeting.

“It just makes me a little sad and I’ll say this again, on my own presidential privilege, that we just passed a resolution about childhood cancer and we had a child in here that had immunocompromised and still folks chose to not do, I think, the least of things,” Council Presiden Shannon Hardin said.

The ordinance requires face coverings inside businesses, city buildings, and public transportation. Exemptions include people with medical, mental health, or developmental disabilities; children under 3; when eating or drinking; when giving a speech or performance.

The ordinance does not extend to schools within city limits, meaning if a school does not have a mask mandate, the city’s mandate does not override the school’s requirement.

Three people signed up to speak in favor of the indoor mask mandate: a business owner, hospital director, and Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts.

“At this point in time, we must do everything in the toolbox we can do to protect our community and prevent our hospitals from being even more overwhelmed,” Roberts said.

Three people signed up to speak against it.

“People will choose to take their business out of Columbus,” said resident Aaron Crater. “We will lose more businesses permanently. Customers will get irate and angry at employees.”

Columbus Public Health will enforce the ordinance. The ordinance calls for a warning for business that violates the ordinance the first time; a second violation calls for a $500 fine; a third violation and each violation after calls for a $1,000 fine. For individuals who violate the order, a first violation also calls for a warning, which a second violation could result in a $100 fine, with a third and each violation after that resulting in a $250 fine.

“This is, we think, a way to move some of the focus to the folks who are just disregarding the health order,” Hardin said.

Ohio State University Associate Professor of Public Health and Law Micah Berman said the mandate will likely hold up if there are any legal challenges.

“Legally speaking, they’re on very solid ground to move forward with a mask mandate here,” Berman said.

Columbus Public Health will check in with the council every 30 days and report on the status of COVID-19 in the city.

The mandate will replace Ginther’s executive order and goes into effect Tuesday at 8 a.m.

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