CINCINNATI, Ohio — Ohio's new red alert mask mandate is now in effect in seven counties seeing a rise in cases.
But some southwest Ohio law enforcement agencies are stating they will not be enforcing the ordinance.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones made waves at his press conference Tuesday evening.
“I am not the mask police, I am not going to enforce any mask-wearing,” Jones said. “That is not my responsibility. I didn’t put this order out, and it’s getting to the point people are scared. People are calling and asking do we have to wear the mask in our house, in our cars, it’s getting kind of ridiculous.”
Governor DeWine announced seven Ohio counties are at Red Alert Level 3 as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Citizens in Butler, Huron, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Trumbull counties are now required to wear masks in public to reduce the spread of the virus.
But some law enforcement agencies are not on board with enforcing the order.
Cincinnati Police released a statement on Twitter saying they support the mandate, but will not enforce it.
“This is health-related order, therefore the Cincinnati Police Department will not enforce this mandate.”
The statement goes on to say Cincinnati Police do not want citizens calling 911 to report violations — rather they should call the local health department. The same goes for Norwood Police.
In Dayton, police are enforcing the ordinance, but issuing a citation is the last step in a process aimed at educating citizens.
In a statement, the Dayton Police Department said:
“The Dayton Police Department’s primary goal is to educate citizens regarding the ordinance enacted by the Dayton City Commission. We are not proactively looking for violations, however we will respond to a complaint. If a person does not comply with a business’s request to wear a mask, the citizen should be asked to leave. If the person refuses to leave there is an option to contact our department to request an officer response to investigate the complaint. A Dayton Police Officer will ensure the citizen understands the ordinance and will offer them a mask if they do not have one. If the citizen still chooses not to comply, the business may want the person trespassed from their property and as a last resort our officers can refer the incident to the Law Department for a civil citation to be issued.”
A Dayton Police officer will explain the ordinance and offer a mask if they do not have one. If that person chooses not to comply, they will be asked to leave the property, and as a last resort, can face a civil citation.
Cincinnati Public Health Commissioner Melba Moore says her inspectors are prepared to manage the situation, but issuing a $25 citation is not their goal.
“Public Health, our role is to go in and educate,” Moore said. “We don’t want this to be punitive, that’s a last resort.”
She says she trusts the people of Cincinnati to uphold the social contract that has been established throughout this entire pandemic, and wants to see Cincinnati move out of Level 3 restrictions.
But even then, she hopes people will continue to wear masks and social distance until the pandemic is over.
“Because what I don’t want to see, and no one else wants to see it, is this surge that will hit us again and we’ll be far worse off in the second wave,” she said. “This is about all of us working together and ensuring that I protect you and you protect me.