GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia law enforcement and health officials say they are utilizing their best judgement on a case-by-case basis when handling individuals out and about in the community amidst Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home orders.
“I’ve been in communication with (Gallipolis City Solicitor Brynn Noe),” said Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin. “She’s been doing some research and she’s going to give us some guidance. Right now, we’re taking the same stance we have been. We’re watching the (Gallia Health Department) take the lead on this on what we need to do and are prepared to assist them in any enforcement.”
“We’re here to help the health department enforce anything, if need be,” said Noe. “As far as actually charging people with a (second-degree misdemeanor), what we’ve talked about is if we did that it would be a secondary charge. Like if someone is out and stealing stuff of your porch, they could be charged with theft and charged with violating the order… A lot of things are going to be situational. If five people live together in a house and happen to be eating dinner at the City Park, there’s nothing wrong with being out. (The state) is encouraging people to walk… We’re taking it situation by situation.”
Noe encouraged the public to stay as home and follow the order as much as possible. The second-degree misdemeanor order violation comes with penalties including up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. She said law enforcement was taking note that officers may not be able to stop individuals without having probable cause so they are utilizing their best judgement.
“Sheriff Champlin, him and his team and Chief Jeff Boyer and Gallipolis City Police are doing a great job monitoring the community and policing that as issues do arise,” said Gallia Health Department’s Tyler Schweickart. “We have instructed individuals that maybe their actions or potential congregation in the community is going against the governor’s order… I do believe we’re at that point now where we have to start enforcing these stay-at-home orders. At this point, the Gallia County Health Department is primarily handling the essential versus non-essential business (issue). It’s taking some of our time ensuring that any business that is considered essential is following those mandatory hygienic practices, such as six-feet social distancing, providing hand washing or providing hand sanitizer and ensuring they’re not congregating inside the businesses…We’ve all taken the stance that we understand the economic hardships that this is causing on a lot of individuals… Generally people are compliant with that (staying at home requests) and a lot of times (may violate) because they don’t know necessarily what they’re doing goes against the stay-at-home orders… They (police) do a great job at ensuring that they work with community members first and aren’t just divvying out fines that will not benefit the community.”
Schweickart said the health department reiterated that the stay-at-home orders would be enforced if problems were found to be reoccurring.
Dean Wright is a staff writer with Ohio Valley Publishing can be reached at 740-446-2342.