Darrell ClayApril 29, 2020 

Governor Mike DeWine has changed his stance on the mandatory mask requirement that was part of the original plan to restart the state’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The mandate of “No mask, no work, no service, no exception,” first announced on April 27, 2020, is no more. According to Governor DeWine, that requirement proved offensive to many Ohioans. Therefore, while he recommends that citizens wear a mask or face covering to limit the potential spread of coronavirus, it will not be required. As of Tuesday morning, April 28, 2020, the recommended protocols posted on the “Responsible Restart Ohio” website changed to “Recommend face coverings for employees and clients/customers.”

The Ohio Department of Health further explained on its Twitter account: “Please understand, if you can wear a mask, you should. Wearing a mask helps to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

At the same time, retail employees will be required to wear masks. Shortly after the Governor ended his press conference on April 28th, the state’s website changed its recommended protocol once again. It now says: “Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.” A press release from the Governor’s office elaborated that a face covering is not required when it contravenes the advice of a healthcare professional or industry best practices, or would violate federal or state laws or regulations.

The same press release commented that “individual business owners could still choose to develop a business policy requiring face coverings for customers to enter their facilities.”

The other “Responsible Protocols” that were previously announced remain in effect. Employers are to conduct daily health assessments to determine employee fitness for duty. Good hygiene must be maintained at all times, such as hand washing, sanitizing, and social distancing. Workplaces must be sanitized during the work day and at the close of business or shifts. Social distancing is to be accomplished through establishing capacity at 50% of the fire code and, where appropriate, using appointments to limit congestion.

Separately, the Governor announced the formation of two working groups that will help devise recommendations for best practices designed to facilitate the reopening of dine-in restaurants, barbershops, and beauty salons.

Although Walter | Haverfield will continue to provide updates relating to Ohio’s post-pandemic business restart plan, that plan continues to change and your continued reference to Ohio’s coronavirus website for the latest guidance is strongly recommended. If you have questions, please reach out to us at questions@walterhav.com. We are happy to help.

Darrell A. Clay is a partner at  Walter | Haverfield who focuses his practice on labor and employment and litigation. He can be reached at dclay@walterhav.com or at 216.928.2896.