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The need to know on DeWine’s health order

Trumbull County residents required to wear masks after Level 3 designation

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Sydney Poptic, 15, and mother Cassie Poptic of Cortland wear masks while shopping at the Eastwood Mall in Niles on Wednesday afternoon. A mandate from Gov. Mike DeWine requiring masks be worn in public places in Trumbull and six other counties in a Level-3 public emergency went into effect at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

With Gov. Mike DeWine having the Ohio Department of Health issue an order requiring those in counties, such as Trumbull, designated as Level 3 (red) high-risk areas for COVID-19 to wear face masks, here are some key questions and answers to help those understand what it all means:

Q. How did Trumbull get the designation when Mahoning and Columbiana counties have more cases?

A. The state unveiled the Ohio Public Health Advisory System last week using seven indicators with a majority of them for what has happened in the previous five days.

During that time, Trumbull saw its cases and hospitalizations spike higher than Mahoning and Columbiana as well as most of the state. It was only one of seven counties to get the designation, meaning it had four or five of the seven total indicators. In the case of Trumbull, it had four.

Mahoning had two or three and was Level 2 (orange) while Columbiana had none or one and was Level 1 (yellow).

Mahoning has seen the number of cases and hospitalizations slow in the past week compared to the state average. Columbiana’s case number has increased quite a bit, but mostly in the federal prison there and the number of cases are more important in non-congregate settings. So, the Elkton prison increase doesn’t play much of a factor.

Q. Why the face mask requirement in the higher-risk areas and not the state?

A. DeWine repeatedly has refused to issue a statewide face mask mandate and has given a “strong recommendation” that people wear them. He changed that Tuesday for Levels 3 and 4 (no counties are at the highest level yet), but didn’t give a great explanation.

DeWine said he spoke to health commissioners in the red counties and decided “we must do more to help protect citizens because the risk of spread is increasing even more.”

Q. Where do you have to wear face masks and where don’t you in Level 3 counties?

A. You don’t need to wear one when you’re at home. Actually, you don’t have to wear them “in any indoor location that is a residence.” So if you’re visiting someone at their home or they come to yours, you aren’t required to wear a mask even if you haven’t seen them for years.

You also don’t need to wear a mask if you’re outdoors and are able to maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from those who are not members of your household.

The order doesn’t apply to those under the age of 10 or any other minor who cannot safely wear a face covering. In addition, people whose physicians advise against wearing them, wearing one is prohibited by federal regulation, communicating with the hearing impaired and if you are alone in an office or personal workspace.

Also, if you’re in a car by yourself or with those in your household, you don’t need to wear a mask.

You have to wear one if you’re out in public including shopping and getting a haircut, or if you’re outside and you can’t maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from those who are not members of your household.

You must wear one while waiting for, riding, driving or operating public transportation, a taxi, a private car service or a ride-sharing vehicle.

Q. What about restaurants?

A. If you’re in a restaurant, you’re supposed to be wearing a mask in Level 3 counties.

You might be thinking: “That’s going to make it hard to eat.” It actually makes it impossible to eat. Restaurants are supposed to be set up so there’s proper social distancing from other customers. Some are and some aren’t. Also, when you use the restroom or go into a common area, you come across other people. The order doesn’t address this issue, but use common sense. You can take the mask off when you’re eating. When you’re not, you should probably keep it on.

Q. When will the requirement be lifted?

A. It just went into effect Wednesday at 6 p.m., so it’s probably going to be a while.

However, as soon as a county goes down from Level 3, the restriction is immediately lifted. So it’s possible that some of the seven counties at Level 3 could go to Levels 1 or 2 today. The state will reclassify all 88 counties every Thursday.

Those in Trumbull are required to wear masks now, but that could change today, although the county’s numbers don’t seem to be improving from last week.

It could also impact Mahoning County, which is at Level 2, if its numbers lead to it going to Level 3.

There won’t be much warning. The new levels will be unveiled during DeWine’s 2 p.m. news conference today and then updated again a week from today.

Q. What happens if you don’t wear a face mask in a Level 3 county?

A. People who don’t comply are subject to being charged with a misdemeanor. That’s the same charge for those who don’t comply with other health orders related to the pandemic. It’s been uncommon for people to be arrested.

DeWine said: “We’re not looking to see people arrested. That’s not the idea at all. The idea is this is the norm.”

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