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Mask enforcement focuses on education, not penalties

Law enforcement in our area will be forwarding complaints to the local health department, but also keeping an eye on disorderly complaints inside businesses.

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — Lucas County joined Wood County on Friday under a governor-issued mask mandate to help stop the spread of the coronavrius in our communities.

Law enforcement across the area are continuing to forward most complaints on masks and social distancing violations to local health departments. But officials said the order needs to be taken seriously.

"If we don't get our numbers down, they're going to have to go back to shutting businesses and things down," Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said.

Health officials and law enforcement agree we need to get the virus under control now. Wearing masks is a key part of that effort. But law enforcement in our area are focusing more on education than penalty enforcement and referring complaints to the local health department.

"It's not our place to be driving around chasing people down for not wearing a mask," Wasylyshyn said. "That's just not what were we're going to be doing."

Wasylyshyn said they won't be asking people on the street why they're not wearing a mask. Lucas County Sheriff's echoed the same sentiment, saying it'll look at any complaints on a case-by-case basis. 

Toledo Police has put out posts on social media urging people to direct any complaints on masks or social distancing to the health department.

Oregon police chief Mike Navarre says he expects there to be arguments inside businesses on this order.

"That's something that we have to respond to right away," he said, "because we don't want a disagreement over two people on the wearing of a mask to escalate into some type of violence."

There are criminal penalties with city mandates and the state's mandate. They include warnings for first offense, fines and even jail time. 

Credit: wtol

But law enforcement said most people are complying and they're more concerned about people being unruly or not listening to a business. 

Even Sylvania shop owner Bradley Dunkle said while he wants people to wear masks, he's not going to bother someone if they're not.

"Everyone is required but obviously if somebody is not wearing it, we have to assume that they have a health condition and we're not going to ask about it," he said.

Governor Mike DeWine asked all Ohioans this week to wear a mask no matter what level your county is at, because it's the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

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