Stricter Columbus City Council Mask Ordinance Replaces Mayor Ginther’s Order

Smart Summary

  • Columbus City Council now requires masks in any outdoor space where a person is not remaining six feet away from another person not in their household.
  • Anyone claiming a medical exemption may be subject to civil fines if he or she cannot produce documentation substantiating the condition.
  • As a departure from the previous Order, penalties may be enforced against both businesses (up to $1,000 fine) and individuals (up to $25 fine) for non-compliance.

If you blinked, you might have missed the changes in Columbus’s rules surrounding facial coverings. On the evening of July 6, Columbus City Council signed a city ordinance replacing Mayor Ginther’s July 3 Executive Order requiring facial coverings in public spaces in Columbus. This new Ordinance went into effect at 8:00 am on July 7 and remains in effect until such time as all governing public health orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic expire. Both the Mayor’s Order and the new Ordinance are generally intended to require facial coverings in public places; but the Order and the Ordinance do have some crucial differences.

The following is the critical information to know about the Ordinance, which is now the controlling law in Columbus.

Where does the Ordinance apply?

Much like the Mayor’s Order, the Ordinance generally requires facial coverings in public places. The Ordinance is somewhat an expansion on the Order, in that it now requires facial coverings in any outdoor space where one cannot maintain social distance. Facial coverings are specifically required in the following:

  1. In any outdoor space where or when a person is unable to maintain or does not maintain physical separation of at least six feet from others who are not members of their own household.
  2. Places of business that are intended for the use of the public (grocery stores, retail stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, restaurants and bars, banquet and catering facilities, personal care, grooming, tattoo facilities, child care, day camp and overnight camp facilities, hotels and motels, gyms and similar facilities; but excluding religious facilities);
  3. City of Columbus-operated buildings or facilities that are open to the public;
  4. Any public transportation regulated by the City of Columbus, as well as all Columbus airports;
  5. Certain high-density occupational settings where social distancing is difficult, such as manufacturing, construction, and agriculture;
  6. Long-term care facilities, where workers must wear a surgical mask;
  7. Health care facilities other than long-term care facilities, which must follow the face-covering requirements of the CDC;
  8. County government agencies with facilities owned or operated within the City of Columbus.

What are the exceptions?

A face covering does not need to be worn under the following circumstances:

  1. Anyone who cannot wear a face covering because of a medical condition, mental health condition or developmental disability.
    • Like the Mayor’s Order, an individual is not required to produce medical documentation of the condition or disability to a business where her exception is being challenged; however, unlike the Order, the Ordinance mandates that failure to produce medical documentation of the condition or disability may result in the imposition of a civil penalty.
  2. Those who are under 6 years old;
  3. Those actively eating or drinking;
  4. Those seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired;
  5. Those giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience;
  6. Those working at home or in a personal vehicle;
  7. Those temporarily removing a face covering to secure government or medical services or for identification purposes;
  8. Those to whom it would be a risk at work as determined by federal regulations or workplace safety guidelines;
  9. Those for whom a face covering is impeding visibility to operate equipment or a vehicle;
  10. A child whose parent, guardian, or responsible person has been unable to place the face covering safely on the child’s face;
  11. Individuals in school or school district facilities. Schools may instead follow the regulations and guidelines promulgated by their governing bodies and the Ohio Department of Education.
  12. Settings where it is not practicable or feasible to wear a face covering, such as when receiving dental services, medical treatments, while swimming, or while acting as an on-duty lifeguard;
  13. Those walking or exercising outdoors, so long as physical separation of more than six feet is maintained;
  14. Those actually engaged in exercising in a gym or other similar indoor facility, so long as physical separation more than six feet is maintained and the individual wears a face covering at all times when not actually engaged in exercising;
  15. An individual in his or her work office, conference room, or other workspace not intended for use by the general public, so long as physical separation of not less than six feet is maintained;
  16. Those inside a personal or commercial vehicle either parked or moving;
  17. Individuals acting in their official capacity as a public safety employee or emergency responder, when wearing a face covering would interfere with or limit their ability to carry out their official duties or functions;
  18. Those complying with the directions of public safety employees or emergency responders; or
  19. Individuals inside religious facilities.

Facilities owned and operated by the Federal Government are also exempt from this order.

How is this enforced?

The enforcement of the Ordinance is the starkest contrast to the Mayor’s Order. The Ordinance is to be enforced by Columbus Public Health, and violators – both businesses and individuals – face civil penalties. Contrast this with the Mayor’s Order, which would have invoked criminal penalties against businesses only. The penalties under the Ordinance are distinct for businesses and individuals.

For businesses:

The Ordinance expressly requires all places of business to sell or otherwise do business only with those who comply with this ordinance. Any manager, owner, or person in charge of a place of business who fails or refuses to comply with this Ordinance may be in violation of this Ordinance. The penalties are as follows:

  • For a first violation, a warning of violation shall be issued;
  • For a second violation, a fine of $500.00 shall be issued;
  • For a third violation and for each subsequent violation, a fine of $1,000.00 shall be issued.

For individuals:

  • For a first violation, a warning of violation shall be issued;
  • For a second violation and for each subsequent violation, a fine of $25.00 shall be issued.

How does the new ODH Order factor in?

To make matters more complicated, the interim director of the Ohio Department of Health issued an order, effective at 6:00 p.m. on July 8, mandating facial coverings in several counties experiencing high levels of COVID-19 infections, which includes Franklin County. This Department of Health Order has some slight differences from the City Ordinance.

The Order is sweeping, covering three broad arenas in which you must wear a facial covering:

  1. In any indoor location that is not a residence;
  2. When outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet or more from individuals who are not members of a household; and
  3. On public transportation, a taxi, private car service, or a ride-sharing vehicle.

The exceptions to the ODH Order are largely similar to the exceptions in the Ordinance (except that ODH excludes children under the age of 10, as opposed to the Ordinance which covers children under the age of 6). The ODH Order delegates enforcement to local law enforcement and departments of health and does not outline specific penalties for its violation.

Your head might be swimming with all of the different Orders and Ordinances. In general, state lawmakers are communicating this message: unless you have a medical condition or are unable to perform your occupation while wearing a facial covering, you must cover your face when in public spaces. The parameters and enforcement actions vary slightly whether you are in the City of Columbus or outside of the city. You are encouraged to seek independent legal counsel if you have specific questions about how these Orders and Ordinances apply to you.

And when in doubt, wear a mask.