Butler County communities eye possible mask law discussions

With Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus passing laws requiring masks or other face coverings be worn when people are out in public as a way to curb the coronavirus pandemic, Hamilton may consider doing the same in a couple of weeks.

Butler County is one of seven Ohio counties (out of 88) that are at a “Level 3 Public Emergency.” The other counties shown in red on Ohio’s “Public Health Advisory” map, along with Butler, are Hamilton County, Montgomery County, Franklin County (home to Columbus), Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Trumbull and Huron counties.

ExploreMORE: Fairfield mayor says the city will continue to encourage CDC hand-washing, mask-wearing guidelines.

When a county is Level 3, the state says the emergency level means the virus has “very high exposure and spread,” and advises people to “limit activities as much as possible.”

Some councils considering, others are not

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said the city council will discuss the issue of possibly requiring masks at its July 22 meeting.

“Obviously social distancing, personal hygiene, wearing masks during certain situations, and undergoing testing when one has symptoms continue to be important,” he said.

“We need to respect our businesses and the policies they establish regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing. I believe we are smart enough to lessen the spread of COVID-19, but we need to act smart. I personally try to act smart, but there are moments when social distancing is not always possible.

Moeller said he will be paying close attention to percentages of coronavirus cases that send people t0 intensive care units, the local intensive care occupancy and hospital admissions.

While Hamilton officials are planning a discussion at an upcoming meeting this month, other cities have not made such plans yet. Middletown’s Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said the question has come up from residents to council members, but as of Monday, “there are no formal discussions planned.”

However, Cohen said council may bring the subject up during their comments during a council meeting. Monroe Mayor Jason Frentzel said his council does not have any legislation scheduled regarding the mandatory wearing of masks.

“There are some council members who are talking about this topic, so I cannot guarantee that the topic will not be discussed,” Frentzel said.

Last week, Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller said, ““As far as us putting down some kind of rules or laws, I don’t see that happening.”

“I hope that people maintain their social distancing, wear the masks, wash their hands and all those things recommended by the CDC,” Miller said. “I think pushing the message is about all that we can do. Really, it’s going to be up to individuals, in my opinion, to protect themselves when what they do and how they do it.”

No Ohio county has reached ‘purple’ status

All other Ohio counties in the area that aren’t red are at Level 2, shown in orange, on the state’s advisory map. Those include Warren, Preble, Clermont, Greene and Clark. That status means “increased exposure and spread,” according to the state’s system. “Exercise high degree of caution.”

The majority of Ohio counties are shown in yellow, the lowest danger level, which represents “active exposure and spread.”

Level 4 is “severe exposure and spread.” Under that status, people should “only leave home for supplies and services.”

Butler County has triggered four of the seven indicators the state uses to measure how prevalent and severe the virus is. Those four indicators are:

• New cases per capita

• Increases in new cases

• Non-congregate cases (situations where people cannot self-isolate at home)

• Outpatient visits related to the virus.

The three that Butler County hasn’t triggered are emergency visits related to the virus; hospital admissions connected with the virus and intensive-care-unit bed occupancy. In addition to the four factors present for Butler County, Hamilton and Franklin counties also triggered emergency-room visits related to the virus.

From June 17 to June 29, the number of COVID-19 cases in emergency rooms tripled in Butler County, from an average of two to seven per day, according to the state.

Staff Writer Michael D. Pittman contributed to this report.

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