Although a statewide mask order went into effect Thursday evening for people visiting indoor public spaces, Champaign County’s two largest local law enforcement agencies are not going to be serving as the mask police.
Both the Urbana Police Division and the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office stand ready to support public health officials and possibly respond to public disturbances related to mask disputes, but they will not be on the front lines of enforcing masks to be worn.
And the sheriff’s office is making it clear that calling 911 is not to be used as a method of reporting mask infractions.
“At this point the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office will NOT be enforcing the mask mandate,” Chief Deputy Eric Holmes stated in an emailed reply about enforcement. “If the local or state health department asks for assistance in keeping the peace we will respond at their request. We are asking citizens, please DO NOT call 911 or the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to report individuals not complying with Gov. Mike DeWine’s mask mandate.”
“As to complaints the Urbana Police Division receives regarding citizens not wearing masks, we will only respond to these if the circumstances included in the complaint indicate that a disturbance is happening or about to happen between individuals,” stated UPD Chief Matthew Lingrell. “Our mission on those type incidents will be as peace keepers only. At this time, we do not plan to be issuing criminal citations regarding the non-wearing of masks.
“If we respond to a complaint regarding this issue, we’ll simply remind folks of the Ohio Department of Health’s Order … and, if necessary to, refer any mask complaints to the Champaign County Health District,” Lingrell said.
Several large businesses serving Champaign County, including Kroger and Walmart, implemented mask requirements for their customers starting this week. DeWine’s mask order applies more broadly: for everyone age 10 and older when they’re out in public or in places where they can’t follow social distancing rules. Excluded from mask orders are those with a medical condition or a disability or those communicating with someone with a disability; those who are actively exercising or playing sports; those who are officiants at religious services; those who are actively involved in public safety; those who are actively eating or drinking.
St. Paris area animal shelter closes temporarily
According to an announcement by His Hands Extended Sanctuary on Dialton Road, the shelter and sanctuary that provides assistance and medical services for pets, the facility closed July 20 due to a staffer testing positive for COVID-19.
“Please know we deeply regret any inconvenience this causes our clients and their animals,” the announcement said. “We will be postponing the garage sale also and all in-house adoptions will be put on hold until Aug. 3. This is not an easy decision as we know how much our clinic is needed by so many.”
The facility plans to reopen Aug. 3.
Champaign County risk moves up to Level 2 Orange
State officials on Thursday moved Champaign County to Level 2 Orange on the public health advisory emergency scale. Orange indicates increased exposure and spread, necessitating a higher degree of caution. Two of 7 indicators pushed Champaign County from yellow to orange: new cases per capita and sustained increase in outpatient visits for COVID-like illness.
The county had stayed at the lowest level of yellow since the advisory map’s inception. Clark County was moved from Level 2 Orange to Level 3 Red in Thursday’s report. Logan County remains at Level 1 Yellow.
According to local health officials, Champaign County data did not increase over the past day and total cases held steady at 77 as of Thursday at 2 p.m.
The county has had 8 total hospitalizations with 2 currently hospitalized. The county has suffered 1 fatality to date during the pandemic.
Presumed recovered cases are defined as confirmed cases with a symptom onset date of more than 21 days prior who are not deceased. For Champaign County, that number held steady at 43 as of Thursday.
DeWine designated 23 counties in Ohio as red on the state’s color-coded alert system Thursday. Those counties continue to show high positivity rates and had an increase in the number of residents seeking treatment for virus-related symptoms, DeWine said.
Athens County, originally on the state’s watchlist, was moved down and Allen County took its place. DeWine says the latter has seen 23% of the county’s total number of cases just in the past two weeks.
The governor continued to reiterate that new cases are being traced back to community spreading and not congregate settings like churches. Even with that, DeWine said officials have reported outbreaks in bars across the state’s major cities: Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo.
The statewide mask order that went into effect at 6 p.m. Thursday is necessary to slow the growth of the virus, officials said, and follows experts’ guidance that widespread mask-wearing over a month or six weeks could put a severe crimp in the virus.
Cases have surged through July as the state reopened many businesses and in some parts of Ohio crowds ignored social distancing guidelines.
Ohio has reported more than 80,000 confirmed and probable cases and more than 3,200 deaths. Many of the latter are among nursing home residents.
The economic impact of the pandemic continues to be felt, as the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported Thursday that 1.5 million claims for unemployment compensation have been filed in the past 18 weeks, including about 30,000 last week. The total is more than the previous three years of claims.
Ohio reported 1,444 new cases on Wednesday, above the 21-day average of 1,239 daily cases. Ohio reported 21 additional deaths compared to the 21-day average of 18. The state reported 104 new hospitalizations compared to the 21-day average of 92. Ohio had 17 new intensive care unit admissions compared to the 21-day average of 18.
To date in total, Ohio has recorded 80,186 cases, 9,968 hospitalizations, 3,256 deaths and 55,702 presumed recoveries.
The positive test rate is 6.3% with tens of thousands of tests being performed per day during the last 10 days.