VAN WERT, Ohio (WFFT) - Just like it has elsewhere, masks have become a necessity in Van Wert as Ohio’s statewide mask mandate went into effect Thursday, July 24.
Now people are having to make adjustments to their routine. For Lynn Simson, it’s not much of a change.
She likes the mandate and has been wearing a mask from the start. Simson said, "There were times where I was the only person, like in one of the stores, that I saw with a mask on, but I just can’t take that chance at my age."
Katlyn Osborn called the mandate "horrible." She says she suffers from anxiety, so it's hard for her to wear a mask, but feels judged if she doesn’t wear a mask, saying "People have to make their own judgment on whether or not they’re going to wear one, but my statement is I feel like I have to wear one because everyone else is staring at me if I’m not, but I agree it should not be law enforced."
This was the sentiment of Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbach.
He said in a statement on the night before the mandate went into effect, “This order is a health-related order that falls under the jurisdiction of the local health department. The Van Wert County Sheriff’s office will not be enforcing this order...If someone is violating the health order, please contact our local health department for mask compliance complaints."
According to Britt Menchhofer with the Van Wert Health Department, that’s what people are doing.
They’re receiving more than a dozen mask related calls a day, but mostly about businesses and not individual people.
"I don’t know if we’ve specifically received calls about businesses not requiring people to wear masks," Menchhofer said. "I know at least today, I had, I think I took three different calls about businesses who weren’t wearing masks."
There’s no legal penalty written into Ohio's mask mandate, but the Van Wert County Health Department is working with the state and the local prosecutor to see their options, according to Menchhofer.
Right now though, the only thing they want spreading is information about why mask-wearing is good.
Menchhofer said, "Our main goal right now is to educate, not be the heavy hand here. We just want to educate the public and our local community members."
There are a number of health exceptions to the mandate, so Sheriff Riggenbach is encouraging people to not assume someone isn’t wearing a mask because they don’t want to and "to be kind and be courteous to one another, as we all go through this together."