CIRCLEVILLE — Pickaway County residents are now required to wear a mask in public indoor locations, public transportation and in outdoor locations where a six-foot distance is not possible.
The directive came from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) following Pickaway County triggering four of the seven indicators set by the ODH.
ODH created the Ohio Public Health Advisory system, which is “a color-coded system designed to supplement existing statewide orders through a data-driven framework to assess the degree of the virus’ spread and to engage and empower individuals, businesses, communities, local governments and others in their response and actions.”
The system has four colors and corresponding levels from yellow at level one, orange at level two, red at level three and purple at level four. Pickaway County moved from level two to level three Thursday evening.
The indicators include new cases per capita, an increase in new cases, non-congregate cases and increasing emergency room visits. According to ODH, the average new daily cases increased from one to four from June 16 to July 2 and more people are seeking medical care for COVID-19 symptoms.
Pickaway County joins 12 other counties, including Franklin and Fairfield, at level three. No counties are currently at level four.
The guidelines for level three are for the community to limit activities as much as possible and to follow all current health orders.
According to the ODH, recent outbreaks include a restaurant and a faith-based organization.
The mask requirement order does not apply to children under 10 or minors who cannot safely wear a mask, and the order includes previous mask guidance to be set in place for employees and businesses where a mask is prohibited by federal regulation or a physician’s advice against it.
“PCPH, in conjunction with the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Pickaway County Emergency Management Agency and Pickaway County Prosecutor support this order and advise Pickaway County residents to follow the mandated guidelines presented in the order, in addition to the existing guidelines,” a statement from the health department reads.
Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy said the city is recommending people follow the mandate, but they have no way to enforce it.
This comes after the city held a discussion Tuesday night during the council meeting in which McIlroy approached council and asked for how he should respond to residents asking if the city would make any such mandate above and beyond what the governor would.
“Give me some guidance on where you think we need to go as a governing body as a city,” he mentioned.
McIlory said the city could mandate masks or pass a resolution if they wanted to, but that was not something he was in favor of.
“I think our businesses can determine if they want people wearing masks coming into their businesses,” he said during the meeting. “I think it would be very difficult for us, as a city, to make enforcements.”
Each of the council members spoke up and stated they were in favor of leaving the decision up to individual businesses and people and any mandate would come from the governor.
Councilperson Todd Brady said he was a big proponent of personal responsibility when it came to things like mask wearing.
“It’s personal responsibility to protect yourself against anything out there that you fear,” Brady said. “I have a son who had stage four cancer and I know about low immune systems can be more susceptible to the flu and how the common cold could have killed him at some point. If you’re one of those individuals in danger, it’s your personal responsibility to take care of yourself, not everyone else. I’m not saying for everyone to be negligible but for people to take responsibility to protect themselves. At this point, it’s not our job to protect everyone and we can’t do that.”
Councilperson Katie Logan-Hedges said businesses can do what they want, as can customers.
“I think you’re right in that business have a right to post a sign on their door and customers have a right to go in there or not,” Hedges said.
Tom Klitzka, councilperson, also shared why he was against legislating people had to wear masks.
“I wear a mask because I’m high-risk in certain categories,” he said. “I go to certain stores and they require you come in with masks. It’s an individual thing and I find I feel a little bit better having a mask on. I don’t think we need to bring legislation to this. We’re not a police state and who’s going to enforce that.”
After the discussion, McIlroy said he would respond to those that reached out and said they would not enact any measures at this time.
“I will tell them we’re not looking at mandating masks at this time,” McIlroy said before conferring that everyone was onboard.