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Columbus City Council Approves Indoor Mask Mandate

A statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger wears a face mask in downtown Columbus.
David Holm

On Monday night, the Columbus City Council unanimously approved an ordinance mandating masks to be worn in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

The city council's ordinance requires those over the age of three to wear face coverings, with residents and businesses facing civil citations and fines if they violate it. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther's executive ordered issued last week only required masks for those ages six and up.

The ordinance also stated Columbus Public Health will be the ones responsible for enforcing the ordinance, with violators facing civil citations and possible fines.

First-time violations for businesses and individuals will only see a warning. However, a second violation for businesses is a $500 fine, and for subsequent violations it's $1,000. For individuals, the second violation is a $100 fine, with subsequent violations at $250.

However, the passing of the ordinance was less than quiet.

As Columbus City Councilmember Emmaual Remy began introducing the ordinance for the first time, boos and shouts from audience members against the mandate disrupted the meeting, causing council to recess for almost 10 minutes.

Council president Shannon Hardin said just before that he felt "a little sad" seeing those audience members not wearing masks, especially since they had just passed a resolution declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, with an immunocompromised child in council chambers.

"Still, folks chose to not do I think the least of things which is to put a mask on when they're in an open public space," Hardin said.

Other exemptions to the ordinance include those in state or federal buildings, actively exercising, playing a sport or other related activities, religious facilities and in school buildings. The ordinance states schools can continue to make masking decisions from their respective governing boards and the Ohio Department of Education. This includes K-12 and post-secondary institutions.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.