COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The City of Columbus has been under an indoor mask mandate for about a week and a half, including the last two weekends — times when businesses are usually busier.
The order is complaint-driven, meaning people have to report complaints to Columbus Public Health in order for them to be investigated, and the health department is reporting it has issued no violation notices so far.
Columbus Public Health said it has received more than 150 complaints. Since this is a mask order, that’s what most of the complaints have been about.
Some form of an indoor mask order has been in place in Columbus since Sept. 10. Since then, Columbus Public Health said it has received 179 complaints, noting some of those are duplicates.
The department sent out 85 notification letters to businesses letting them know a complaint was filed against them, reminding the business of the mandate’s expectations.
That falls outside of the ordinance, however, which calls for an official warning followed by fines for further violations.
A Columbus Public Health official said in order to issue warnings or fines, public health officials need to see the violation themselves.
The department plans to conduct some of these in-person checks based on the complaints in the coming weeks.
“Really taking that soft approach to try to gain compliance without having to take any heavy enforcement actions,” said Luke Jacobs, environmental health division administrator for Columbus Public Health. “Subsequent complaints will lead us down a road of going to make observations in the facilities and taking appropriate enforcement action based on what the ordnance tells us to do based on our observations moving forward.”
Columbus Public Health said the number of complaints it has received so far is about the amount it expected.
The ordinance passed by Columbus City Council requires face coverings inside businesses, city buildings, and public transportation. Exemptions include people with medical, mental health, or developmental disabilities; children under 3; when eating or drinking; when giving a speech or performance.
The ordinance does not extend to schools within city limits, meaning if a school does not have a mask mandate, the city’s mandate does not override the school’s requirement.
The mandate calls for a warning for business that violates the ordinance the first time; a second violation calls for a $500 fine; a third violation and each violation after calls for a $1,000 fine. For individuals who violate the order, a first violation also calls for a warning, which a second violation could result in a $100 fine, with a third and each violation after that resulting in a $250 fine.