In announcing his plans to begin the process of reopening the state's economy, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also announced that wearing masks or face coverings would be mandatory for employees and customers at stores as the state continues to face the coronavirus (COVID-19).
But after facing backlash over the mandate, DeWine has since changed his mind.
At his daily press briefing on Tuesday, DeWine said that while wearing masks or face coverings is still recommended, it will no longer be mandatory when Ohio begins reopening its economy on May 1. DeWine said he came to this conclusion after listening to feedback and understanding that some people didn't like the idea of being forced to wear something they don't want to and found it "offensive."
"For retail customers, this is not going to be mandated," DeWine said. "It is best practices... I've heard you and we're not going to mandate this. We're going to leave it up to the individual customer."
DeWine reiterated that wearing masks remains a "strong recommendation."
On Monday, DeWine announced that the following businesses will reopen between May and May 12:
- A healthcare opening allowing all medical procedures that don't require an overnight hospital stay, beginning on May 1. Nonessential medical procedures have been prohibited in Ohio since March 17.
- Dentists and veterinarians will also be allowed to reopen on May 1.
- Manufacturing, distribution and construction will be allowed to resume on Monday, May 4. All employees and clients will be required to follow safety practices, including wearing masks, conducting daily health assessments and a limited capacity of 50 percent of the businesses' fire code.
- General office buildings will be allowed to reopen on May 4. Companies are asked to have employees still work from home as much as possible.
- Consumer retail and services will be allowed to reopen on May 12. All employees and customers will be required to wear facial coverings.
Meanwhile, restaurants, gyms, salons and barbershops will currently remain closed as the state assesses how its numbers fare as other businesses begin to reopen.
While the state's current stay-at-home order is set to expire on May 1, DeWine said that it will officially remain in place. Additionally, gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited.
As of Tuesday, Ohio has had 16,769 positive coronavirus cases, including 3,340 hospitalizations, 1,004 ICU admissions and 799 deaths. Dating back to the discovery of Ohio's first positive coronavirus case on March 9, DeWine has put a number of measures in place to encourage physical distancing, including a stay-at-home order since March 23.