By Linda Dillman
Is Canal Winchester doing a good job in protecting each other during the time of a pandemic?
Mayor Michael Ebert thinks the answer is yes, but also admits there is much confusion over mask mandates.
“Canal Winchester residents are probably doing better than the average community when it comes to following the governor’s orders, whatever they may be at the time,” said Ebert. “People are becoming confused as to what rules they are to follow and when. The first requirements that were given several weeks ago were pretty straight to the point, now they are getting more and more confusing, and if you can’t watch or listen to the governor’s press conference, you can fall behind on what the new requirement is.”
On July 14, Franklin County Public Health issued an order requiring facial coverings and on July 17, people in counties designated Red Alert Level 3—which includes Franklin and Fairfield counties—were mandated to wear masks.
“Today, more Ohioans are getting sick than at any previous point in this pandemic,” said Governor Mike DeWine on July 16. “We are sliding down a very dangerous path, with our once flattened-curve starting to sharpen and spike. This is a worrisome, disturbing reversal of our progress – a jarring reminder of just how quickly our fate can change. As of July 17 at 6p.m., nearly 60 percent of Ohio’s population will be under a mask order, and I strongly encourage citizens living in other counties to wear masks in public as well.”
According to the health department, businesses covered by the order must require all employees to wear facial coverings, except if facial coverings at work are prohibited by law or regulation; are a violation of documented industry standards; not advisable for health reasons; a violation of the business’ documented safety policies; or there is a functional (practical) reason for an employee not to wear a facial covering in the workplace.
Everyone in Red Alert counties are required to wear a facial covering at all times in an indoor location that is not a residence and while outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household.
The mask requirement does not apply to individuals under age 10 and those with a medical condition, including those with respiratory conditions that restrict breathing, mental health conditions, or disability constraints; the individual is actively engaged in exercise in a gym or indoor facility so long as six or more feet of separation between individuals exists; or an individual is seated and actively consuming food or beverage in a restaurant or bar.
The list of exemptions and inclusions for businesses and restaurants is long and available online.
“From what I have seen, employees of businesses in town that are open to the public are wearing masks and most, if not all, businesses are requiring the customer to wear a mask and have been successful at doing so,” said Ebert. “Any mandatory order from the state or health department is under the control of the local health department. I will encourage businesses and residents to follow the guidelines, but that is about as far as it goes.”
With a surge in the number of positive coronavirus tests across the state, cities like Canal Winchester are balancing public safety with economic recovery, which Ebert admits is not easy.
City buildings are not open to the general public on a walk-in basis. If it is necessary to meet in person, clients or the public are currently seen by appointment only and are required to wear a mask.
All employees are required to wear a mask if they leave their normal workspace or are working in close proximity to one another, such as in a small group meeting environment or on a job site outside. Most business meetings are held via go to meeting or a similar program.
“If you feel safer wearing a mask, by all means wear a mask,” said Ebert. “If you are not wearing a mask, your chances of contamination are probably greater than if you were to wear a mask. Keep in mind, according to the public health officials, by wearing a mask you are protecting others around you more than yourself.”