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DeWine: Wear masks to stop COVID-19 surge

If only people would don the mask, avoid gatherings and keep their distance from one another — even their loved ones — a surge that elevated the spread of the coronavirus in most of the state might dissipate, said Gov. Mike DeWine.

“Whatever you like to do, whatever is important to you, wearing a mask and keeping your distance is the way to preserve your ability to do it,” DeWine said in his Tuesday briefing.

When mask wearing goes up, case numbers go down, DeWine said, declaring the science of mask wearing settled.

“We know, we can show, how mask wearing in Ohio fundamentally changed the outcome,” DeWine said.

While it might feel natural at this point for many to wear a mask in public, people still are failing to wear them in situations where they feel more comfortable, such as visiting family members who don’t live together or close friends.

“The bulk of this spread is in families,” DeWine said.

Compliance with mask wearing seems to be highest in urban areas or in county seats in rural counties, DeWine said. Smaller, rural communities, meanwhile, compliance with mask wearing is at its lowest, he said.

While grocery stores have the highest amount of compliance out of different types of stores, convenience stores have some of the lowest compliance, DeWine said.

“It is not that hard,” he said, to wear a mask in the necessary situations.

“We’re still losing people, and there’s no cure.”

Just two weeks ago, the seven-day average of new cases reported daily was about 1,000; now it’s up to 1,447, he said.

“We’ve gone up quite dramatically,” DeWine said.

Positivity rates also are going up.

“As we increased the testing, you would hope to be seeing a drop in positivity. We are not seeing that,” DeWine said. In the last week of September, the rate of positive tests was 2.7 percent, it was 4.1 percent Tuesday and the seven-day average is 3.9 percent, DeWine said.

“These numbers have gone up dramatically,” he said.

The number of counties that are considered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards to have a high incidence of spread — more than 100 cases per 100,000 people — is the highest it has ever been, DeWine said.

Although Trumbull, Mahoning and Portage counties are in the elevated red level of concern for spread, the counties are not classified as high incidence. Fifty-one counties are, however.

“If you’re in a high incidence county or a red county, we certainly should be concerned. We aren’t trying to scare anybody, but these measures have never looked like this since we’ve done this. We’ve never had this many high-incidence counties,” DeWine said.

He said state and local health officials mostly have to rely on voluntary compliance for mask wearing,

“When you are talking about enforcement, there is a limit to what government should do and a limit to what government can do. We can’t go into someone’s backyard; we can’t go inside their home,” DeWine said. “We don’t have the people to do it.”

But officials are using the state’s power over liquor to ensure places that sell it are making sure protocols are followed, he said.

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