PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth City Council voted in a 4-1 majority to require masks in public within the city limits during Monday’s council meeting.
Starting Tuesday, July 14, at 8 a.m., Portsmouth residents were and are required to wear a mask in public places and businesses according to an ordinance brought up at the council meeting Monday.
With Mayor Kevin E. Johnson’s concerns about the legality of the ordinance being added to the agenda without notice and a letter from the Portsmouth Health Department stating they could not enforce the ordinance, council voted 4-1 to require masks.
Residents who choose not to follow the ordinance inside city limits will first be issued warnings to individuals and places of business, followed by fines on an increasing scale.
After warnings, fines will look different for each group. For a second and subsequent violation, individuals will pay fines of $25 for each charge. Places of business will be charged $500 for its second violation and $1,000 for each following offense.
Johnson addressed the public on his Facebook page with how the ordinance will be enforced. Fines will be addressed to individuals and places of business, which the ordinance defines as “any office, facility, building, or structure operated by or for a for-profit business or nonprofit enterprise.”
There have been more than 500 comments to Johnson’s post as of Tuesday morning with some expressing support and others showing disdain, saying it is against their rights and threatening to take their business to other towns in Scioto County.
Johnson was the sole dissenting voice with Councilman Thomas K. Lowe not in attendance. The mayor said he was not against masks, but rather preferring the ordinance to follow procedure with three readings to allow public input.
Although the ordinance was added to the agenda during the meeting, rumors of the mandate had been speculating around Portsmouth for a few days. Residents sent in letters to the council to express their opinions for masks or their concerns.
According to the ordinance, masks can be the surgical N95 type or made of cloth as long as it covers the face and mouth and secured in a way to prevent slipping. Only those working in long-term care facilities are required to wear surgical masks.
The ordinance does have several exceptions. It does not apply to individuals with a medical or mental health condition, developmental disability, those under the age of six. While the ordinance applies to most buildings in Portsmouth, masks will not be required on school district facilities or places of worship unless otherwise required by a separate governing body.
Those exercising outside or inside a gym will not be charged as long as they maintain of physical distance of at least 6 feet.
Reach Patrick Keck (614) 949-0629 , by email at [email protected] , or on Twitter @pkeckreporter © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved