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Masks become musts in Youngstown

Brown to order mandatory face coverings throughout the city beginning on Monday

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown announces he will issue an executive order on Monday mandating masks be worn in Youngstown. Staff photo / Ed Runyan

YOUNGSTOWN — Masks will be mandatory in Youngstown starting Monday Mayor Jamael Tito Brown announced Friday during a daylong free COVID-19 testing program.

The mandate requires facial masks in all indoor locations or outdoors where social distancing is not possible.

Brown said the city received 34,000 masks from Proctor and Gamble. The city health department will work with businesses and organizations to provide residents with masks if they do not have them.

“That’s our first line of defense. We will provide them with a mask,” he said.

The mayor said there will be some “small civil penalties” for those who refuse to follow the order — which he will sign on Monday — and “maybe look at criminal later depending on how we go. But I believe Youngstown will stand up, and we will stand out like we have.”

He noted that the city enforced the governor’s orders on mass gatherings by warning people first about having parties and other gatherings and eventually cited several people, including individuals at large parties.

He said that type of enforcement is possible with the mask order as well.

Brown stood with health Commissioner Erin Bishop, Councilwoman Samantha Turner, the Rev. Kenneth Simon of of New Bethel Baptist Church, and many others on the lawn of the Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership on Fifth Avenue to make his announcement.

It was at the same time that the free COVID-19 testing by the Ohio National Guard was taking place on the other side of the MYCAP building and nearby Wick Park.

The mayor, who made sure the assembled group socially distanced, had his mask either over his face or around his neck as he spoke.

“I’m not wearing the mask for myself. I’m wearing it for my mother. She’s in that vulnerable age group,” he said. He said he will be asking city council to approve legislation to create the mask order, though it will go into effect Monday on his executive order.

Turner said city council supports the mayor’s mask order, and Brown said the three Mahoning County commissioners likewise support the city’s mask order, though they had other obligations and could not attend the news conference.

Simon said, “I know that word ‘mandatory’ sometimes rubs people the wrong way,” but wearing a mask is like the Golden Rule: “If I want people to protect me from whatever the may have … to protect me when they are out in public … then I should show the same kindness by protecting them. And that’s really what masks are for. It’s how we show our care and concern for others.”

Bishop said one of the most challenging things the health department faces is the “constant complaints of people not wearing masks, and there is really nothing we can do about it because we do not have a mandate here in the city.

“So with this now, we are able to go out on those complaints. But what we want to do is work with those businesses.”

She said officials will take bags of masks to businesses on Monday so they can provide them to the public. She said any businesses that need masks after that should call the health department to request they be brought out Tuesday.

She said her husband recently chose to shop at a store in Niles instead of Boardman because Trumbull County had a mask order at the time.

Brown noted Gov. Mike DeWine gave everyone a “stern warning” on television Wednesday about the need to wear masks, and has encouraged Ohio’s mayors to take “bold initiative steps” and “implement things that are going to help our community.”

One of the things Brown said he decided to do in response was to implement mandatory masks.

The mayor noted that Friday’s free testing was especially important to the minority community because its members are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

He thanked MYCAP and DeWine for holding the event, which was staffed by and paid for by the Ohio National Guard.

Danyel Taylor of Youngstown went to the free testing site with her mother, Corine Taylor of Yougstown.

Danyel Taylor said she wants to know if she is carrying the coronavirus “because if you are positive, you pose a risk to others in your family and community.

“It’s better to know. At least you can take steps to get healthy and protect the people around you.”

As Tom Reilly of Austintown waited for members of the National Guard to test him and his wife Pat, he could be heard telling one of the testers, “Thank you for doing this testing.”

Reilly, a retired steelworker, said later he sees “too many people who are not wearing masks” and said he thinks that shows selfishness. “They are not thinking of others.”

erunyan@tribtoday.com

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