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Coronavirus In Ohio: Mask Mandate Coming For More Than Half Of State's Population

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
Office of Gov. Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)

There are now 19 counties under a Level 3 advisory for the spread of COVID-19 in Ohio. This means more than 60% of the state's population will be under a mask mandate going into the weekend.

Face masks will be required at 6 p.m. Friday in eight additional Ohio counties, including Delaware, Licking, Union and Richland counties in Central Ohio. These counties, along with Allen, Athens, Lucas and Scioto counties, are now labeled "red" on the state's Public Health Advisory System.

The "red" counties show very high exposure and spread of the coronavirus. Those eight new counties have hit enough indicators of concern to trigger a mandatory mask order in public.

The new advisory comes a day after Gov. Mike DeWine made a statewide plea to the people of Ohio to wear masks and to stop gathering in large groups. However, he stopped short of issuing stronger health orders, such as a statewide mask mandate. 

"We're gonna give it a little while. And I will not rule that out as we go into the future, but I think again, people would rather be asked than to be told," DeWine said Thursday.

The governor is hoping Ohioans can take the precautions seriously in order to avoid another shut down of businesses.

"No one wants to see a shut down, no one wants to see business shut down again," DeWine said. "No one wants to see us hunker down. But if we're going to avoid all those bad things, we have to take action."

DeWine said that getting more people to wear a mask will take a culture shift that he believes is already happening.

DeWine says health experts are growing concerned about the amount of cases coming from non-congregate settings, so not from assisted living centers or prisons. DeWine says a majority of cases not coming from congregate settings indicates "significant community spread."

Democratic lawmakers are calling on DeWine to take more decisive action.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.