COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine provided some explanation Thursday on his recent change of course in imposing county-by-county coronavirus restrictions, which he originally opposed in favor of uniform orders across the state.
He explained during his coronavirus briefing that the entire state is covered by “baseline orders:” generally no gatherings with 10 or more people, maintaining 6 feet of distance between each other, and mask requirements for business employees.
“Those apply everywhere, but there was an argument — there is an argument — that the data is different in different counties,” he said. “And what goes on in a very rural county in Ohio… is different.”
For the counties hardest hit by the pandemic, there should be stricter restrictions, he said. Specifically, DeWine is mandating that people wear masks in all counties that are in the Level 3 or “red” category in his heat warning map.
In addition to the virus problem being more severe in some counties, DeWine said that public attitudes have shifted about mask-wearing. He said that when he first announced the reopening of the state’s economy, he suggested mask-wearing for everyone out in public. But people balked, he said, and he ended up backing off the order.
“People in the state of Ohio were not ready for that,” DeWine said Thursday. “So what we have done is we’ve waited. The situation is more serious, we now have the ability to target those counties with data. We can tell by data, those counties that are most at risk and say, ‘OK we’re going to have this mask order for these counties that hit red or hit purple.’”
DeWine has shifted his opinion on the issue since May 1, when he said he opposed Ohio starting down the path of different orders by county.
“It would be a disaster for this state,” he said then.
By June 26, he had changed his mind.
“We are looking at the state now in segments, we’re looking at it in regions, we are looking at it in counties,” he said. “That’s what people should expect. I’ve had a lot of people, particularly those in rural areas, who have said ‘Mike, why don’t you start looking at it county by county?’ We’re doing that.”
And it became official this week, when DeWine announced that masks are now required in the red counties.