Mask mandate lifted in all Warren County buildings as of June 1

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 3:34 PM EDT
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - Warren County is lifting its mask mandate in all county-owned buildings.

County Commissioners passed the policy, which takes effect June 1, in a 2-1 vote Tuesday.

Commissioners Dave Young and Tom Grossman were in favor; Commissioner Shannon Jones opposed.

It is “not a good policy for the government to require masks, as it encourages citizens to believe there is no benefit to getting vaccinated,” reads the resolution.

The board believes there is “credible and scientific evidence that the high efficacy of the available vaccines justify lessening restrictions,” it states.

The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,411 COVID-19 cases, 143 hospitalizations, and 13 COVID deaths Tuesday.

The board did acknowledge in their resolution that they have no authority to legislate policies throughout the county, but they can do something in the area they do oversee.

Warren County has about 1 million square feet of county facilities including the main county building, jail, and courthouses, Young said.

They will allow the tenants of those facilities - essentially other county elected officials such as judges and the auditor - to adopt their own policies that could keep the mask mandate in place should they chose, or have what they feel is an at-risk population, he said.

Warren County Court Administrator Jennifer Burnside tells FOX19 NOW masks will still be required inside the Courthouse. She says the county judge-executive will wait for a State Supreme Court ruling if it comes to that.

“If they want to have a separate policy, we’re leaving that up to them,” he said, stressing that the mask resolution does not mean masks are now banned. Anyone who wants to wear one in a county facility still can, it just no longer would be required.

Young said he cannot in good conscience enforce something he doesn’t believe in.

“The facts have changed. For months, we’ve taken the position that we want to provide actual protective devices to those most at risk. Warren County residents have taken this seriously and Warren County is now leading southwest Ohio in vaccination rates,” he said.

“I cannot answer the question of once someone is vaccinated why in the world they still have to wear a mask. No one has given me any credible scientific data why that is required. If I am going to mandate something to citizens, I darn well am going to believe in what I mandating and I do not believe in a mask mandate. That should be a decision up to individuals and I don’t fault anyone for wearing one.

“As a matter of fact,” Young continued, “I will give them an actual KN95 mask at no cost to them. We are handing them out for free when you walk in. Over 100,000 of our residents have gotten at least one shot and we’ve had roughly 75,000 (COVID-19) cases. That’s 175,000 that have either had the disease or are fully vaccinated out of 230,000 residents. That’s what, 75 percent of our population? Why in the world are we still required to wear a mask?

“I was not an anti masker. The entire time, I’ve always said this was a very serious disease to those who are most at risk. It’s three groups: the elderly, those with chronic health conditions, and obese people. Almost all of the people who have died in this country have come from those three groups.

“It’s certainly not children and I think that it’s a travesty that we have school children going around school wearing masks where it has been scientifically proven there has been almost no transmission and when the is children have had very mild outcomes.”

Young said Warren County leaders are not hiding from this and are sending a letter to Gov. DeWine and the director of the Ohio Department of Health alerting them to their decision.

“We told them what our statistics are and told them what we have done in Warren County and asked them to please give us the scientific support of why we should do this. If they provide us evidence we don’t know about, we will look at it again but I don’t think that evidence exists, but we will give them the opportunity to provide it.”

Young said he expects other communities to follow their lead. He said Deerfield Township will soon vote on a similar measure.

Earlier this month, the Butler County commissioners rejected a request by former Ohio state representative Candice Keller to create a so-called mask sanctuary that would protect those who do not want to follow Ohio’s mask mandate.

Commissioner Donald Dixon citing an opinion directly from the Butler County Prosecutor, “We have no legislative authority. None. Zero.”

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