Southwest Ohio lawmaker to introduce bill to end state mask mandate

A local state representative said today she will introduce a bill to end Ohio’s mask mandate, one day after Gov. Mike DeWine’s spokesman said the mandate would continue until the state reaches a critical mass of vaccinations.

State Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) has opposed several of DeWine’s initiatives during the pandemic. In a press release, she said she would introduce legislation next week to end the mask mandate in Ohio.

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Her move comes days after governors of Texas and Mississippi ended mask guidelines and relaxed other restrictions, a move that drew criticism from many health officials.

“Sixteen states currently do not have a statewide mask mandate,” Powell, who represents the 80th District, said. “These states are thriving economically, mentally, and emotionally.”

DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney said Wednesday that people who have received the vaccine have “great immunity” against severe forms of the coronavirus, including protection from being hospitalized or dying, they could still get the virus in a weakened form, Tierney said.

That means they could transmit the virus to people at risk of serious complications, he said.

“We need to wear the mask to protect ourselves and others from the virus spreading until we get that critical mass where the vaccine is doing that for us,” Tierney said.

Powell’s planned legislation also would prohibit any new statewide mask mandates by the governor or any department director during the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency, unless approved by the General Assembly.

“Cases are decreasing dramatically, and vaccine distribution is increasing rapidly,” said Powell, whose district includes Miami County and part of Darke County. “This bill supports individual freedom, and allows Ohioans to make the choice of whether or not they voluntarily want to wear a mask.”

DeWine issued the mask mandate in July.