Dayton repeals mask requirement

Dayton Mayor, Nan Whaley watches Police Chief Richard Biehl before he announces his retirement on Tuesday April 13, 2021. JIM NOELKER\STAFF
Dayton Mayor, Nan Whaley watches Police Chief Richard Biehl before he announces his retirement on Tuesday April 13, 2021. JIM NOELKER\STAFF

Dayton’s elected leaders on Wednesday night repealed an ordinance approved last summer requiring people to wear masks and facial coverings in public.

The repeal measure took effect immediately and was passed by city commissioners less than a week after the CDC and state officials eased guidelines and rules about mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people.

Most of Ohio’s COVID-19 health orders will be lifted on June 2, and Dayton officials said they wanted to bring its regulations in line with CDC and public health recommendations.

“It’s really important we stay aligned to what CDC guidelines are, since that’s what’s been the driving force for us through the entire pandemic,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

But commissioners also approved an informal resolution encouraging citizens to get the vaccine and continue to follow updated social distancing and mask recommendations.

Whaley said the city may have to pass new legislation in the future, if CDC guidelines change again.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and City Manager Shelley Dickstein speak at a press conference earlier this month. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and City Manager Shelley Dickstein speak at a press conference earlier this month. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The Dayton City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance repealing legislation approved in July 2020 requiring people in public spaces to wear masks or facial coverings.

Dayton became the first major Ohio city to mandate mask wearing, and city leaders said the move was intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Dayton’s mask requirement was controversial, but within weeks it was followed by a state-imposed mask mandate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week updated its recommendations to say fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask or socially distance.

This prompted the state health department to say fully vaccinated Ohioans can resume most activities without wearing a mask.

Dayton’s repeal follows in the footsteps of some other communities, like Akron, which have rescinded their mask requirements.

Kroger and other businesses also announced this week that they will allow vaccinated customers to start shopping inside their stores without having to wear masks.

Dayton’s mask mandate ordinance was enforced on complaint basis, and violators could face an $85 penalty.

But the city told citizens not to report violations. Business owners and employees were encouraged to report violations to police.

The informal resolution approved Wednesday by commissioners says the commission supports the right of businesses and employers to require customers and employees to wear face coverings and socially distance.

The resolution also states commissioners encourage unvaccinated residents to continue to wear face coverings and socially distance.

Whaley said vaccination is the key to protecting residents from COVID-19.

She said people who are tired of socially distancing and wearing a mask need only to get a shot or two to retire those requirements.

“I think that’s like 1,000 reasons to get vaccinated,” she said.