GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Commissioners Monday gathered to discuss Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s recent announcement to close nonessential businesses and public gathering points in light of the COVID-19 outbreak across Ohio.
“We reviewed the governor’s orders and as far as we can see, there’s not a lot of difference from what was said before and what is there now,” said Commissioner David Smith. “The governor is aware that some people have chosen to not abide by the request. That order puts a little more bite behind it in case law enforcement feels it needs to do something (to close gatherings). That’s really the big difference. People are saying we’re on a lockdown. We are not. That’s not what I infer from what’s put out there.”
Smith said there were a few changes with daycare facilities.
“We’ve made a few changes to explain access as far as different departments,” said Smith of county operations and the Gallia Courthouse. “It’s up to elected officials to make a lot of calls. We’re not closing the courthouse. We don’t intend to unless ordered to. There are functions that have to go on.”
“It’s not just about individuals,” said Smith. “It’s about all of society. (COVID-19) can affect families, parents and grandparents. I can’t say I’ve seen anybody in our county flaunting these rules. I think people as a whole are doing well, considering all the stress and other things.”
“We were extended a conference call with the governor and lieutenant governor, last night (Sunday evening),” said Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin. “We were able to have some pretty good discussion about what the expectations were moving forward. The governor reiterated that this order doesn’t really change the effects of where we’ve been at for the past week. The goal with this order is to limit social gatherings to prevent the spread (of COVID-19). This order gives the health department and law enforcement agencies power to enforce preventing social gatherings and limiting exposure of the public.”
Should members of the public fail to comply with the directive of a law enforcement officer in response to concerns from the Ohio health authorities in terms of limiting social gathering, an individual may be cited with a second-degree misdemeanor, said Champlin.
“Our goal is to not to have to use it. We obviously have that latitude but we don’t want to to exercise that latitude. We’re hoping to enforce it through communication with people and not have to travel that path. It is available to us but it’s our goal to get compliance without having to do any type of charges or bring them before the courts,” said Champlin. “We want people to separate and follow the direction of Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton. It’s been problematic in some areas. A lot of our citizens have been honoring (the order)… We are asking the people to follow the guidance of the governor and Dr. Acton and not put us in a position where we have to to use criminal law and enforcement.”
“I’ve been privileged to be to a lot of meetings with our community leaders and health officials in the last two weeks,” said Champlin. “Going into a situation like this, I’m skeptical like anybody else is. The more I’ve listened to our state health officials and local health officials, who have been phenomenal through this, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our families and neighbors. We need to heed the advice of the medical community and understand when they step up and start taking something like this as serious as they do, there is obviously some substance to it. We are supporting our friends and neighbors and we’ve got a great community. We’re also supporting our medical professionals and listening to the advice they’re giving us. They are professionals in this field for a reason.”
Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.