Oxford takes unique step with citywide mask mandate as Miami University announces vaccine requirement

Miami University officials Tuesday ordered all its students to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 and less than 24 hours earlier the Oxford City Council approved a new law requiring patrons in city businesses to wear masks unless dining or drinking outdoors or while standing up. The moves come as Ohio health officials reported Tuesday another uptick in the number of coronavirus cases. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Miami University officials Tuesday ordered all its students to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 and less than 24 hours earlier the Oxford City Council approved a new law requiring patrons in city businesses to wear masks unless dining or drinking outdoors or while standing up. The moves come as Ohio health officials reported Tuesday another uptick in the number of coronavirus cases. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Oxford has reversed its stance and now requires masks indoors at businesses and employee vaccinations while Miami University in the city will require all students to be fully vaccinated by the Thanksgiving break.

Oxford City Council on Monday reinstated a previously repealed mandate and now requires patrons of indoor businesses to wear face coverings, and Miami announced Tuesday all students, staff and employees need to be vaccinated by Nov. 22.

The movescame as Ohio health officials reported the highest number of daily cases of coronavirus infections - more than 5,900 people – in the last three weeks on Tuesday.

The state is averaging 3,570 cases per day in the last three weeks. Four weeks ago, on Aug. 3, Ohio’s 21 day average was at 855 cases a day, said Ohio Department of Health officials.

ExploreOhio reports new 21-day high with 5,914 COVID-19 cases

“All of us would like to return to pre-pandemic conditions where we can all be together, collaborating in our vibrant learning community focused on mission and purpose,” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said in a release. “Vaccination is a necessary tool to move us toward that goal.”

Previously, Miami officials had strongly recommended vaccinations for students and staffers.

The university said students will not be permitted to register for spring semester classes unless they have begun the vaccination process with at least one dose by Oct. 25 or have received an approved exemption. Students will not be disenrolled for the fall term.

The announcement noted exemptions can be sought for medical reasons, religious reasons or for reasons of conscience, including ethical and philosophical beliefs.

The new vaccination policy applies to all students, faculty and staffers at Miami’s main Oxford campus and its regional campuses in Hamilton and Middletown.

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The university’s announcement came hours after Oxford City Council’s action ordering a mask mandate.

A resolution authorizing the city manager to implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy for city employees was approved on a 7-0 vote of council with no public comment.

The mask mandate ordinance was approved on a 6-1 vote after public comment followed by council questions and discussion.

The ordinance is written to remain in effect until December 13, but council can end it sooner and said they would if the infection rate slows.

The resolution regarding city employee vaccinations authorizes the city manager to develop a vaccination policy for employees, but Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott said the policy was not yet fully developed and was not included in the council agenda packet.

He told council employees not vaccinated in the future would be tested weekly.

Elliott Tuesday told the Journal-News the current mask mandate “is somewhat less restrictive than our earlier version” and calls for no mask-wearing for outdoor settings and allows patrons in bars who are eating or drinking while standing to do so unmasked.

Patrons will have to mask up inside any public space within the city’s limits, including the bars and restaurants in Oxford. The mandate also applies to any form of public transportation.

“We’re trying to find a good middle ground … and trying to protect the health and safety of all our residents including the students at Miami University,” said Elliott.

Joel Parks, co-owner of the long-time Bodega Delicatessen in downtown Oxford, said he appreciates the city’s efforts toward more safety measures but is unsure of what it means yet for his business when it comes to enforcing the law among his customers.

“I already make sure my employees are wearing masks and I’m assuming in a day or two I’ll be hanging up a sign about masks required of customers,” said Parks.

“I’m not surprised this has happened,” he said.

Contributing Writer Bob Ratterman contributed to this story

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