(Natural News) A hotline that allows people to report others for not wearing masks has been set up in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, following Gov. Mike DeWine’s order mandating the use of masks in several “high risk” areas within the state.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, in a statement, said that the hotline was launched in order to allow the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to focus on contact tracing and testing. This is because Cuyahoga County currently does not have enough manpower in law enforcement to identify, track down and apprehend violators.
Budish insists, however, that the hotline and its online counterpart are not meant to aggressively prosecute those who choose not to follow Governor DeWine’s mask mandate.
“Sending the Sheriff out and putting people behind bars for violating the mask law, that’s not what this is about,” Budish said, adding that this is not the first time that the government has enacted intrusive yet necessary policies. (Related: Scientists: Face masks reduce risk of coronavirus infections by 65 percent.)
“Look at seat belt laws, those are intrusive. I remember when they were first coming in, people hated it,” Budish said.
As per the order, individuals who see others violating the governor’s mask orders should forward complaints to the county’s new hotline at 216-698-5050, or through the county’s website.
County workers will then contact the subject of the complaints – whether they are individuals or businesses – in order to inform them that a complaint has been filed against them, Budish said, adding that the complaints also will be forwarded to the Board of Health, as well as the relevant city or village authorities.
In addition, the Sheriff’s Department could reportedly investigate or potentially file charges and take further action should a violator of the mask order become the subject of repeated complaints, or if an individual commits a “serious non-compliance.”
According to Budish, those who violate the state’s order can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail as well as a fine amounting to $750.
“It’s our hope that this kind of action won’t be necessary,” Budish said during a press conference. “I can assure you that no one wants to penalize people for not wearing a mask.”
So far, the hotline has received about 500 complaints. These have varied from employees to customers to police officers not wearing masks. Meanwhile, some of the complaints have also involved individuals at house parties, auto repair shops and fast food joints.
19 Ohio counties now potentially critical COVID-19 hotspots
Aside from Cuyahoga County, 18 other counties within Ohio have been ordered by Governor DeWine to implement mandates required the wearing masks in public due to their high number of coronavirus infections.
The order affects the following counties: Athens, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto, Union, Butler, Cuyahoga, Clermont, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit and Wood.
These counties, according to authorities, are now under “Red Level,” which means that they have met up to four of the seven indicators mentioned in the Ohio Public Health Advisory Alert System.
These indicators — new cases per capita, sustained increase in new cases, proportion of cases that are not in congregate settings, sustained increase in COVID-19-related emergency room visits, sustained increase in COVID-19 outpatient visits, sustained increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions and intensive care unit occupancy — determine a county’s risk for the virus, and function as an early warning system for the residents of that county.
“No matter where you live, you are at risk for this,” Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said.
As per DeWine’s orders, those who live in the mentioned counties must wear masks whenever they are in any indoor space that is not a private residence. This is on top of wearing them outside when it is not possible for them to stay six feet away from people outside of their household. In addition, DeWine’s mask order also requires individuals to wear masks when they are waiting for or using public transit and other transportation services.
Local health departments, DeWine’s office said, will be the ones to enforce the mask order, adding that they do not anticipate the involvement of law enforcement – except in extreme cases.
At least 70,601 people have been reported to have COVID-19 in Ohio, of which 3,103 have died.