Delaware County law enforcement clarified Friday they will not be “actively” enforcing the mask mandate from the Ohio Department of Health as the county enters a Level 3 Public Emergency.
The Delaware General Health District reported Thursday the county had reached a Level 3 Public Emergency or red alert level on the Ohio Public Health Emergency Advisory System, meaning the county has “very high exposure and spread” of COVID-19.
According to the Ohio Department of Health’s website, people in counties designated as “Red” are required to wear masks or a face covering in any indoor location that is not a residence; when outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household; or while waiting for, riding, driving, or operating public transportation, a taxi, a private car service, or a ride-sharing vehicle.
The Level 3 also encourages county residents to limit activities as much as possible.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office tweeted after the announcement that it “strongly encourages” county residents to wear a mask, but it will not be actively enforcing the mandate.
“The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to upholding the Oath of Office to fully support the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution of the State of Ohio and Ohio laws. While the Ohio Department of Health mandates the use of facial masks for counties at a Level 3, Red Alert, the sheriff’s office strongly encourages its residents to use masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and hopefully prevent another stay-at-home order. We will not proactively seek out those not in compliance with this mask order.”
The DCSO also advised residents concerned about the mandate to contact the health district.
“If you believe you or others are at risk, please contact the Delaware General Health District so they can investigate the concern and recommend the best action steps to address the health and safety of all. We continue to rely on our local experts at the health district, who always have the health and safety of all Delaware County residents as their top priority. As always, your sheriff’s office continues to focus on its vision statement: Protecting people, their property and their rights.”
Tracy Whited, head of community and media relations for the DCSO, said in an email Friday that the mask mandate is an executive order, not a law, and does not fall within the purview of the sheriff’s office.
Whited said the sheriff’s office is not requiring deputies to wear masks at all times, but she added they do take precautions when responding to a scene.
“Frontline law enforcement officers are exempt from the order, but we take precautions when certain indicators lead us to,” Whited said. “Our dispatchers are asking all the right questions so that when our deputies respond to a call, they are as prepared as possible upon entering a home or scene with possible COVID exposure. Those of us in administrative positions are wearing facial masks and social distancing as much as possible.”
On Friday, the City of Delaware Police Department published a statement on its Facebook page stating the DPD will not be actively enforcing the rule.
“The Ohio Department of Health has identified and moved Delaware County into Level 3 of the Ohio Public Health Advisory System and ordered the use of facial coverings in public in situations where social distancing is impractical,” the police department’s post states. “While the Delaware Police Department encourages voluntary compliance with the mask mandate, we will not be actively seeking out violations of the order. The Delaware General Health District, who have worked tirelessly to insure your health throughout this COVID-19 crisis, is the point of contact for any question or complaints.”
The Ohio Department of Health states on its website that the order does not apply to children under the age of 10 or any other minor who cannot safely wear a face covering. The order also reflects the mask guidance in place for employees and businesses that do not require a person to wear a mask if their physician advises against it, if wearing a mask is prohibited by federal regulation, if communicating with the hearing impaired, when alone in an office or personal workspace, and other similar measures.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, counties that move from Level 3 to Level 2 will be removed from the face mask mandate.
Glenn Battishill can reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.