COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order Friday over mask-wearing in Columbus.

In the order, Ginther declared a state of emergency and required that masks be worn while in indoor spaces accessible to the public. The concern is over rising COVID-19 cases as the delta variant spreads and 47% of Franklin County residents remain unvaccinated.

There are exceptions. They include:

  • Those younger than 6
  • Those with medical or behavorial conditions that preclude mask-wearing
  • Anyone actively eating or drinking
  • Those engaged in sports or recreational activities
  • Those giving a speech or performance before a live audience

Areas affected include city buildings, office buildings, retail establishments, bars and restaurants, and public transportation. Among the areas not believed to be affected are county, state and federal buildings and religious facilities.

“New cases are on the rise, hospitalizations are on the rise, and the strain on our medical and public health professionals has reached a critical point,” Ginther said in a news release. “It is vital that we act now to protect the health and well-being of our community while keeping our economy, our schools and our city open for business.”

Enforcement will be done by Columbus Public Health. Earlier this week, Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said a first offense would draw a warning, a second offense a $500 fine, and a third offense a $1,000 fine. The public may report violations by calling 311.

Following Columbus’ initial announcement, Whitehall and Bexley said they would enact similar mask rules.

The order will remain in effect until Ginther rescinds it, his office said. Ginther had said he would work with City Council next week to pass a related ordinance and that he is preparing for a legal challenge to the order. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a law over Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto that limits the scope of health orders. But it was targeted at state and local health departments and not local governments.

Columbus’ mask order takes effect immediately.

Download the executive order here.