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Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson Mandates Face Masks In Public

Updated: 5:46 p.m., Monday, July 6, 2020

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued an order Friday afternoon requiring face covering anywhere in public in Cleveland.

Jackson's order also set a maximum occupancy of 50 percent at all bars and restaurants. The city will shut down any bar with two violations of the maximum occupancy order.

The order also says people should not gather during the holiday, except within the social distancing and mass gathering mandates. And they must wear masks and wash their hands often, it states.

Jackson said in a Friday night conference call with media that the new measures are necessary because the precautions put in place haven't stopped the virus from spreading.

"So all we're doing is attempting to implement what we believe, according to the CDC and others, are those precautionary things to keep people safe," Jackson said.

There could be penalties attached for those who do not comply, pending approval by city council: A $50 citation for employees who don't wear masks; $25 citations for patrons who don't comply with mask and social distancing rules; a $3,000 fine on first instance and $5,000 for each subsequent instance of an establishment failing to facilitate social distancing; a $150 fine on first instance and $300 on subsequent instances of residents who host mass gatherings and a $50 citation for those who fail to wear masks while a passenger in a ride sharing vehicle. 

Until penalties are set by council, the mayor said, warnings will be issued.

The order came hours after city councilman Tony Brancatelli announced plans to introduce an ordinance requiring face coverings in public at council’s July 15 meeting. He said that with the mayor's mandate, such legislation is rendered unnecessary.

"Now that the mayor has issued this order, that steps in front of legislative action," he said, noting council must determine penalties through legislation. "How the penalties come into play and when the penalties come into effect are going to be critically important," he said.

Brancatelli said he decided Cleveland needs a face mask rule the night before, after dinner on the Flats East Bank.

“And as we walked along the boardwalk and saw a few other watering holes, it was just packed, elbow to elbow, which was inappropriate,” Brancatelli said. “And we’re going to see a spike in cases again.”

Cleveland City Council President Kevin J. Kelley and Councilman Blaine Griffin, chair of Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, issued a joint statement supporting Mayor Jackson's order.

“Cleveland City Council stands behind Mayor Jackson’s decisions during this unprecedented pandemic," it said. "This important step is vital to protect all Clevelanders from this deadly virus and any legislative action needed will be taken up at our July 15 Council meeting.”

Without a statewide mask order in place, the city needs to have something to combat coronavirus spread, Kelley told ideastream Monday.

“We want people to be engaged in the economy, to be out,” he said. “But at the same time, if we continue on the path that we’re going, I don’t know what the future will be for restaurants and other places of public accommodation.”

The goal of any enforcement measures won’t be punitive, Kelley said, but rather to encourage compliance.

“We just want people to act reasonably, and really take this crisis seriously,” he said.

Cleveland joins several other Ohio cities with similar requirements. Dayton and Cincinnati have both passed laws requiring facemasks in public and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther signed an executive order that went into effect Friday.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish plans to introduce legislation to county council Tuesday requiring masks in public countywide. 

"We don't want to stop the economy again," Budish said during a call Friday with reporters. "So the least intrusive way to get out in front of this virus is by requiring people to wear face masks."

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of two wear a mask, especially when social distancing is hard to maintain. Recent research points to the effectiveness of cloth masks in slowing the spread of the disease and research from the University of Washington estimates that wearing masks in public could save between 17,742 and 28,030 lives in the U.S. by Oct. 1.

Jackson's order did not include any exceptions to the face covering requirement.

Jackson's order is based on Cuyahoga County's placement under the state's new Public Health Advisory System in Level 3, which is a "very high" level of coronavirus spread. 

ideastream's Taylor Haggerty contributed to this report.

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