Butler County businesses applaud mask mandate changes: What they're saying

·3 min read

May 15—Butler County businesses and entertainment venues — some of the hardest-hit during the coronavirus pandemic — are optimistic after Gov, Mike DeWine announced his latest health guidelines.

On Wednesday, DeWine announced mask and social-distancing orders related to the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted June 2. The next day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say that those who have been vaccinated no longer need to wear masks.

For some, that means business will return back to normal for the first time in more than one year.

But one of the area's largest businesses, Kroger, said everyone in stores must continue to require face masks despite DeWine's orders. Kroger is encouraging customers to practice social distancing and frequent hand washing and they should consider using the no-touch grocery delivery or low-contact grocery pickup options.

Mica Glaser Jones, owner of the Windamere Event Venue in Middletown, called DeWine's lifting of masks "amazing" and "very welcome," though she wondered why it won't happen for three weeks.

When masks were required, Jones let brides and grooms and their guests decide whether to follow the guidelines while all vendors were required to wear masks. She said wearing a mask "changed the whole feel of the wedding" because it made it difficult to see and hear guests.

She has 25 wedding receptions planned this year and several couples recently contacted her about hosting "last-minute" receptions.

Hamilton's RiversEdge amphitheater in Marcum Park, one of the county's largest entertainment venues, adjusted throughout the pandemic by changing the free concerts to paid events and assigning patrons squares to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, said Adam Helms, promoter of RiversEdge.

He said no COVID-19 cases were traced back to RiversEdge.

Helms said two concerts are planned before June 2 and both will be held requiring guests to remain in their assigned pods.

Then after June 2, Helms said, the venue may convert back to free concerts, though some of the paid concerts are sold out. In those cases, guests will be refunded their money and they can decide if they want to attend the free concerts, he said.

Helms has been in constant contact and sought the advice of Hamilton Health Director Kay Farrar and Mayor Pat Moeller.

So has Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton. He said Farrar has provided "outstanding support, advice and encouragement" throughout the pandemic and he will continue following her orders after June 2.

He encouraged everyone able to get vaccinated.

"This virus is still there and it's still deadly," he said. "We have a shield against it."

After receiving recommendations from the health department, MacKenzie-Thurley will meet with his board at the end of the month to map out the best strategy moving forward, he said.

David Pearce, organizer of the Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival, set for July 16-17 at Smith Park in Middletown, said the event that was canceled in 2020 will be "back to normal" after DeWine's orders.

"This is wonderful, great," Pearce said. "It will be great to be outdoors and get together as a community and see our friends."

One Butler County district voted Thursday night to eliminate the mask-wearing mandate for its students the rest of the school year that ends next week. The Madison board of education voted to change the mandate at its meeting Thursday night, said Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff. She described this as a "transformational year" in the district because of how the educational system changed.

"We had to be flexible and we learned education can look different," said Tuttle-Huff, who added the district performed "really well" through all the COVID-19 changes.

The capacity at Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, will increase from 30% to 100% after June 2, the team announced Friday.

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