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Can Ohioans be forced to wear masks?

According to the Ohio Constitution, administrative agencies must act reasonably and have evidence to support any type of mandate.

OHIO, USA — It's no secret when you go to the grocery store not everyone is wearing a mask - at least in stores where it's not required. 

Right now in Ohio, you have a choice when you go out in public: you can wear a mask, or you can choose not to. But if there was a state mandate, could you have the right to refuse? Experts say, there are three arguments that can be made. 

The first and second arguments deal with a mask mandate infringing on someone's individual rights. It's reasonable to argue requiring a mask prevents someone from pursuing certain avocations of life. But the third argument is where a gray area lies, specifically in this pandemic.

According to the Ohio Constitution, administrative agencies must act reasonably and have evidence to support any type of mandate. This means the Ohio Department of Health would need to show there is enough research that supports the idea that requiring healthy people to wear masks protects everyone.

"Under the state constitution, there would have to be evidence showing that it in fact is the case, that wearing masks by people who don't have symptoms is necessary for public health," said Lee Strang, University of Toledo professor of law and values.

While research surrounding coronavirus is constantly developing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending masks or face coverings for many reasons, one of which is people can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19.

"It definitely has been proven to reduce the amount of emission of virus when we're around each other so just putting a barrier in place when we're talking would help the virus from extending," ProMedica emergency room technician Dr. Brian Kaminski said.

So is this a good enough argument? While we don't have a definite answer, historians say past pandemics have put public safety at first priority.

"Traditionally, the way we look at the constitution, there's no 'right' not to wear a mask during a pandemic," Bowling Green State University history professor Andy Schocket said.

While the CDC's stance on wearing a mask in public has changed multiple times throughout this pandemic, right now it is recommended if you are planning to go out, to wear some type of facial covering. 

To learn how to make your own facial covering click here.

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