Lake County public officials met at the Lake County General Health District March 12 to discuss the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.
“There’s so much going out there we all want to be on the same page,” Eastlake Mayor Dennis Morley said at the start of the meeting.
Morley, who is the president of the Lake County Mayors and Managers Association, reached out to Lake County Health Commissioner Ron Graham the prior afternoon to set up the meeting.
“We’re just trying to get some thoughts from the health district of what we should do and what we should stay diligent on,” Morley said.
About 20 officials were present at the meeting, which included mayors, city and township managers, trustees and fire chiefs among others. About a half-dozen others joined in on a teleconference.
The 8:30 a.m. meeting lasted about an hour, with mayors and managers continuing discussions after adjournment.
Among the topics discussed at the meeting was the concept of social distancing. That is, the response to the idea that during a disease outbreak, many people cannot or will not stay home all of the time.
“People have lives that they need to continue to live and work; so rather than fully ioslate, the goal is to create a distance (6 feet) between people and reduce the likelihood that the virus can be transferred,” a slide prepared by the health district stated.
Per CDC recommendation, social distancing involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance whenever possible to limit the ability of the virus to spread,” according to the presentation.
Social distancing could include canceling events, school classes, church services, or declaring “snow days” where everyone is asked to stay home and “non-essential” entities are shut down. Non-essential means facilities that “do not maintain primary functions to the community.”
Eastlake Fire Chief Ted Whittington suggested that if there are suspensions, that time constraints should be put in place, even if they are extended later.
“I think when decisions get made — and I think the governor is doing exactly what he needs to be doing and I most certainly respect that —- but the one thing that’s happening is panic is being created and it’s being created very quickly,” Whittington said. “I would like to ask, at least at the local level, when decisions get made, at least point some kind of a time constraint on that. Even if it is followed by a reevaluation.
So for example, if the decision is to (reduce) what is happening at senior centers — say, we’re going to do that and then we’re going to reevaluate it in two weeks,” he added. “I think people need something to hang on to because they have nothing.”
Whiting added that he has two kids in college. Both colleges issued suspensions, but left things open-ended, like when they’re going to return.
“That creates a tremendous amount of anxiety,” he said.
Senior centers were another topic of conversation at the meeting.
Willoughby Mayor Bob Fiala said that the seniors in his community want the center to remain open. Mentor City Manager Ken Filipiak added that these centers provide several different types of services to people and being unable to access those could compromise someone’s health in other ways.
“What we decided to do was to provide a simplified informational sheet that is going to be given to everybody as they come in, all our members,” Filipiak said. “So that the senior community — while we take for granted all of — letting them know exactly that they are in a higher-risk population group and they should take that into consideration before considering attending or participating in an event.”
Filipiak said they’ve asked for reimbursements (or postponements) for out-of-town travel for senior center trips.
“Any type of activity that is going to confine people for a longer period of time we’re trying to avoid,” he said.
The Lake County General Health District has a COVID-19 page on its website where it is adding updated information about the situation.
The Ohio Department of Health has opened a call center to answer questions about COVID-19. The call center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 833-427-5634.
More information regarding COVID-19 can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.