To combat the spread of the coronavirus, mask mandates have become quite common among many of the nation’s states. To date, 30 states have some kind of mask requirement with all sorts of variations related to enforcement and who exactly must wear a mask. 

Ohio is one of those 30 states, with governor Mike DeWine issuing the Ohio mandatory mask order on July 23rd. The details of the order are as follows:

  • Masks must be worn at all indoor locations that are not a residence
  • Masks also must be worn outside where social distancing is not a possibility
  • You also have to wear a mask while waiting for or riding public transportation, taxis, or rideshares.

There are plenty of exceptions that come along with the mask requirement that are worth mentioning. First and foremost, children under the age of ten are exempt as are people with medical conditions, and those who are exercising or playing a sport. You can also forgo a mask if you are officiating a religious service, working in public safety, or eating or drinking at a restaurant. 

What If I Violate the Mask Mandate? 

While penalties for those who violate mask mandates are different in each state, so far the official stance in Ohio is that violating the mask mandate is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750. 

And while the governor has chosen not to reduce the penalty that can accompany a violation of the mask mandate, he has also made it clear that the point of the mandate is not to punish people, but to make mask-wearing the norm.

There is still some debate as to whether the state mask requirement actually has an “enforcement provision” or not. Some have said that the mask mandate is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable while others claim that local authorities do have the right to issue fines. However, it has also been reported that some law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s departments in Butler and Hamilton counties, will not enforce the mandate.

Either way, according to DeWine’s office, it does not seem as though punishment is the intent of the order. His press secretary explained, “It did not take large amounts of law enforcement officers. People saw the announcement and started wearing masks. They’ve been doing this throughout the pandemic.”

What about Local Mask Mandates?

Even though there hasn’t been robust enforcement of the state-wide mask mandate, doesn’t mean you won’t get a fine if you go maskless. Several city governments such as Cleveland and Cincinnati, have mask requirements of their own.

The Cincinnati mask mandate, for example, comes with a $25 fine for violators. In Cleveland, a $25 fine is only issued if you are still not wearing a mask after the first warning. 

It should be noted that although penalties appear insignificant for individuals, they are more serious for businesses that fail to comply. In Cleveland, businesses get a warning and then a $1,000 fine for a first offense and a $3,000 fine for any subsequent offense. 

Are There Requirements to Claim an Exception to the Mandates?

While it is unclear if there are exceptions to the local mask requirements in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and elsewhere, it appears as though there is nothing you have to do in order to claim an exception under the state mask mandate. While it will be clear in some cases such as when eating, exercising, or for those who are young enough not to need a mask, for those with a medical condition there is nothing that needs to be done to claim the exception.

The governor has even said, “If someone is in a store and they do not have a mask now, we should assume they have some medical problem. We should assume there is some very legitimate reason why they cannot wear a mask.”

If you have a medical condition or for some reason believe you are exempt from the Ohio mask mandate you do not need documentation such as doctors note explaining your condition. 

Your Legal Requirements

As a resident of Ohio or someone visiting the state, it is best to comply with the state mask mandate. However, you can be assured that it is unlikely you will receive a fine or other punishment if you do not comply. There is however a greater chance of a fine if you violate a city’s mask requirement. Finally, if you cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, you do not need any documentation proving your condition.