As have the leaders in Huron County have in their petition to LG Husted:
Dear Lt. Gov. Husted,
Thanks for everything you are doing at the state level. You have to make some very tough decisions and everyone will not always be happy. Because we are having a hard time getting in touch with you personally, we are trying this route.
Huron County is not Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati or Toledo. We are a small, mostly rural county with “a low viral load” — a direct quote from our health commissioner (Tim Hollinger). Just as different areas of the country face different challenges and need different strategies, various areas of Ohio face different circumstances and deserve different timetables. For our employers and employees alike, the danger of economic devastation is just as real as the threat of COVID-19.
Re-opening our economy is NOT a return to normal, but it is a necessary step to address all ways in which COVID-19 has ravaged our society — physical, mental and economic. While we mourn the death of one Huron County resident from COVID-19, we mourn four drug overdose deaths in the area since the stay-at-home order. For those battling addictions, the loss of routine from work and self-help group meetings can be devastating. With most people forced to stay home, officials say domestic violence incidents are also rising.
May 1 is not a magic date. It is not based on science, but was chosen because it was several weeks away at the time and gave our state leaders time to try to slow the spread of the virus. The strategy is working. Now, because of the unique characteristics of our county, it is time to let our residents who are able to start back to work to save their jobs and businesses.
Our hospitals made emergency preparations for dozens of COVID-19 patients that have not materialized here, but now have many empty rooms and face staff layoffs because only emergency treatment is allowed. That also means we have many residents suffering at home because the surgeries and procedures they need have been postponed indefinitely.
At the same time, we acknowledge that risk remains. We go a step further from Gov. (Mike) DeWine’s statement that we should all act as if everyone we meet could infect us with COVID-19. We must all act as if we, ourselves, are asymptomatic carriers capable of infecting everyone we meet.
Many of the practices now in place must continue — masks, frequent hand-washing, frequent sanitizing of surfaces, social distancing, health checks of employees upon arrival, limited number of employees and patrons in enclosed spaces, working from home when possible, limits or denials for social visits in nursing homes and hospitals, limits on the number of people meeting in groups.
While COVID-19 is simply an illness in some people, it is a death sentence to others. Therefore, some of our residents — elderly and health-compromised people — may need to remain in self-quarantine for their health and safety. We must, as a community, continue to support and assist those people. Employers must consider their employees who face special needs. But if our businesses shut their doors for good — a very real possibility for many of our small businesses — our entire community will suffer long past the arrival of an eventual vaccine for COVID-19.
Bars present unique opportunities for infection and would have great difficulty enforcing social distancing so they must remain closed for the time being. But our many other businesses deserve the chance to re-open as long as they include responsible health and hygiene practices in their daily operation.
Forcing our employers and employees to wait minimally another week or more before even beginning to re-open puts a burden unnecessary in Huron County’s environment. Since they are population centers, Ohio’s cities get most of the attention and money from state leaders. We acknowledge that necessity because of the different needs and different environments between cities and rural areas. So please don’t punish our rural areas by refusing to acknowledge those differences in environments now.
We will propose a plan to you that can open most of our closed businesses, yet remain cautious and safe. Please give us a chance to work with you responsibly. We also ask you to respond to us directly and immediately so we can help our businesses develop plans as soon as possible.
Huron County Commissioners — Bruce Wilde, Terry Boose, Joe Hintz
Dick Stein, State Representative, 57th District
City of Norwalk
Huron County Development Council