Mayor George and City Council Introduce Mask Mandate | The City of Lakewood, Ohio

Mayor George and City Council Introduce Mask Mandate

July 17, 2020

Yesterday, Mayor Meghan George, with cosponsors Councilman Tristan Rader, Councilwoman Sarah Kepple, Councilman Tom Bullock, and Councilman Jason Shachner, introduced legislation to establish a mask mandate and reduce building occupancy to fifty percent of fire code in the City of Lakewood for retail and service businesses.

“Lakewood’s strength is in its people and its small businesses. For Lakewood to thrive during this pandemic, we must strike a balance between economic health and public health,” said Mayor Meghan George. “To date, we have collaborated with county, state, and federal leaders on the COVID-19 pandemic. As pressure mounts to ‘go back to normal’, they are relenting. During the initial phases of the pandemic, Governor DeWine took the lead and coordinated a comprehensive statewide approach and response. Just before Governor DeWine announced his Public Health Alert System two weeks ago, he deferred decisions on face masks and occupancy to local officials. As our COVID numbers continue to mount, I advocated for a statewide mandate because coronavirus doesn’t stop at county borders. That announcement did not come, so we must do everything we can to protect the public health and safety of our community.”

The proposed legislation has three main components:

  • Appropriate—Lakewood’s proposed legislation includes a civil penalty for failure to wear a face mask. The State of Ohio’s existing penalty is a second-degree misdemeanor, which means a $750 fine and/or jail time up to 90 days. This would mean that anyone cited without having a mask on would have a criminal record.
  • Enforceable—Lakewood’s proposed legislation includes an occupancy limit of fifty percent of fire code, as was recommended by Governor DeWine but not implemented. This limit enables Lakewood’s Police Department and Fire Department to enforce gathering limits when a complaint is received.
  • Sensitive—Lakewood’s proposed legislation will enable the community to determine the proper duration of restrictions based on unique factors like its population density, economic diversity, and concentration of small businesses.

“This legislation is the right fit for our community. We are in a crisis right now. County, state, or federal leaders are not going far enough. They are not providing solutions for a densely-populated, economically diverse, small business-focused community like ours. We have to consider what action we can take to protect our community,” Mayor George added.

The City of Lakewood recently created a police detail for COVID-19 education, enforcement, and support.

Acting Police Chief Leslie Wilkins said, “We created a COVID detail within the Police Department in response to Mayor George’s request for proactive community policing. The officers on this detail are proactively visiting establishments on Friday and Saturday evenings, between 9:00pm and 3:00am and throughout the week. I’m grateful for Mayor George’s leadership here because my officers are responding to complaints about social distancing and mass gatherings.”

Fire Chief Tim Dunphy said, “The State of Ohio’s guidelines have changed during the course of this pandemic. They haven’t been clear at all times, and, because of that, they are difficult to enforce. We need to give our business owners clarity and stability about their restrictions.”

“I want to give the Lakewood Police Department and Fire Department the authority to enforce rules that make sense in Lakewood,” Mayor George said. “The current resurgence of COVID-19 cases is evidence that this legislation is needed.”

Terry Allan, Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said, “CCBH supports the City of Lakewood’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. CCBH is working closely with Lakewood Police Department’s COVID-19 unit to enforce public health orders.”

The City of Lakewood has supported its small business community with $187,000 in rent relief to 118 small businesses, suspended parking enforcement to make it more convenient for patrons to visit retailers and service businesses, and a public education campaign called #TogetherForBetter to get the word out, both to patrons and business owners, about safe operation and best practices during the pandemic.

City Council will deliberate the mask mandate and fifty percent occupancy legislation at the next regularly scheduled full City Council meeting on Monday, July 20th at 7:00 pm.