GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia Health Department met with the Gallia Commissioners during their weekly Thursday meeting in the Gallia Courthouse and then later in the day visited with area governmental agencies, first responders and school leaders at the Gallia 911 Communications Center to address concerns with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Ohio.
Commissioner David Smith was not present for the meeting due to a death in the family.
Commissioner Harold Montgomery said the Gallia Board of Commissioners had been in frequent contact with the Gallia Health Department.
“Some of the main things we wanted to go over with everybody today would be some of the restrictions that Gov. DeWine’s Office and the Ohio Department of Health have put on local health districts to start enforcing in counties to curb this outbreak,” said Gallia Public Health Official Tyler Schweickart. “At this time, our primary concern is to stop the spread. We do not have any cases of coronavirus in Gallia County… We are diligently investigating individuals who have a concern with an illness or recent travels they’ve gone on. We’re starting to restrict large gatherings, some of these include school activities and any event that have large amounts of individuals.”
A regional science fair that would have been hosted in Rio Grande was also recently canceled as well as a variety of area community functions.
Schweickart said that the Gallia Health Department was considering public gatherings of 100 individuals or more large and asked that the public not attend such functions.
Later in the day, the governor’s office made an official statement restricting mass gatherings.
According to a press release made Thursday from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Office, “Mass gatherings are defined as any event or convening that brings together 100 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. This would include parades, fairs, and festivals. Mass gatherings does not include normal operations of airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers, or other spaces where 100 or more persons may be in transit. It also does not include typical office environments, schools, restaurants, factories, or retail/grocery stores where large numbers of people are present, but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length of one another…This order will take effect immediately and will remain until the state of emergency declared by the Governor has been rescinded or modified.”
The ban does not apply to religious gatherings, gatherings for purpose of expression of First Amendment protected speech, weddings or funerals.
“We are in constant contact with the state and the (Center for Disease Control),” said Schweickart. “Some of this information may change very quickly as we learn new things and we will put that information out as quickly as possible.”
The Gallia Sheriff’s Office completed last week remote jail visitations efforts through telecommunications equipment as part of ongoing efforts.
The health department recommends that individuals during this time limit or avoid contact with sick individuals, practice thorough hand-washing techniques and to cover ones mouth with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.
The majority of individuals are anticipated to be fine during the outbreak but those suffering underlying health conditions, autoimmune disorders and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the disease and precautions should be taken. Individuals with breathing problems, heart problems, obesity or challenges with cancer are also urged to take extreme caution.
“I would say this is not a time to panic but older Americans should be gathering information and giving thought to limiting contact in crowds, especially in interior venues,” said Smith in an electronic communication.
For more information, Gallia residents can follow the Gallia County Health Department Facebook page, visit the Ohio Department of Health webpage of odh.ohio.gov and visit the Center for Disease Control webpage at www.cdc.gov.
Dean Wright is a staff reporter for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-44-2342. © 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed telecommunications efforts in the Gallia Sheriff’s Office with the health department. The jail telecommunication program has been a lone sheriff’s office effort. The office has remained in contact with the Gallia Health Department in regard with COVID-19 concerns an shall continue to do so.