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Ohio Investigative Unit working on COVID-19 enforcement as statewide mask mandate issued

Businesses are on watch for masks and social distancing violations by the Ohio Investigative Unit.

OHIO, USA — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made the call for a statewide mask mandate to take effect Thursday night.

Violations by businesses of the state's health orders have been handled by the Ohio Investigative Unit. And businesses continue to adapt to new state health orders.

"It's been challenging adjusting to the mask thing and social distancing thing," Basil Pizza & Wine Bar executive chef Cody German said.

The new order issued Wednesday expands the current mask mandate to the entire state, regardless of a county's level on the state's COVID-19 public alert system.

A customer at Basil believes a state mandate is the right move.

"I feel like it's safer for all of us," Oregon resident Alaina Cannon said. "But the people that aren't getting involved and think that they don't have to wear a mask are what's ruining it for all of us."

RELATED: 7 Ohio businesses cited for violating health orders this weekend

John Luppino, general manager of Basil in Perrysburg, said all of the guidelines have taken some time to adjust to since reopening in May.

"Definitely has taken some tweaking, and basically, obviously, at the end of the day the health and safety of our team members and guests are our number one priority," he said.

Luppino added that restaurants and bars are doing the best they can to comply with all the guidelines, including wearing masks on a daily basis.

"It gets pretty hot as you can imagine in the back of the house, and that's why it's imperative, we're obviously checking temperatures daily on a regular basis, multiple times, during the shift," he said. 

The Ohio Investigative Unit, which normally handles Ohio's liquor laws and investigates crimes on liquor permit businesses, is helping enforce state health orders for COVID-19. 

The agency has issued 84 administrative violations statewide since the first orders took effect back in March and 14 in Lucas County. A business with a violation then has a hearing in front of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission in Columbus.

"They can be fined, their liquor license can be suspended or they could receive a full revocation of their liquor license," Ohio Investigative Unit agent-in-charge Michelle Thourot said.

Last weekend, the unit investigated 311 businesses and only issued 10 violations. So most places, she said, are doing their best to keep people safe and stay open.

"We understand that these orders can be difficult to follow, but if that many business owners can get it right, let's work together and talk on a Tuesday afternoon instead of talking to you and a bunch of investigators sitting in your business on a Friday night," she said. 

Any business complaints on social distancing or masks should be referred to your local health department or to the Ohio Investigative Unit (614-644-2415).

RELATED: Ohio Coronavirus Update: DeWine issues statewide mask mandate