Who is essential?

Editor note — The following Highland County COVID-19 update was submitted Friday to The Times-Gazette by Branden Jackman, public information officer for the Highland County Emergency Operations Center.

So, who’s essential, and now that you’re essential, what’s expected of you?

Governor Mike DeWine was very clear on how to determine if you, or for that matter your business, is essential. Please use your best judgment and a healthy dollop of common sense to determine if you should go to work or the business should remain open.

In the stay at home order issued from the Ohio Department of Health and signed by Dr. Amy Acton, it defines essential businesses, what’s expected of social distancing, and how essential businesses need to operate as we navigate the next week.

Essential business is determined by a list developed by the Department of Homeland Security and takes a common-sense approach to the services that are needed to keep our worlds moving. Some examples of essential business are anything to do with the production, packaging, or food in general; solid waste management; public utilities; internet, phone and TV; and gas stations and transportation and industries that service them. Media outlets, hardware supply stores, the skilled trades, laundry services, hotels, motels and any businesses that manufacture, distribute, or are part of the supply chain for critical products are deemed essential. This is not an all-inclusive list. Please read the order in its entirety as it is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

As we discussed in earlier articles, if you are an essential business there are precautions and procedures that have to be enacted. Those precautions are trying to maintain social distancing to the best of your ability; providing sanitizing products for your employees as well as any customers that may be in your business; maintaining separate hours for those vulnerable populations if your business services those individuals; determining if any of your staff can be switched to remote, thus helping with the social distancing; and flexible sick leave policies that are non-punitive if employees need to spend more time at home due to this pandemic. If any employee shows symptoms of a respiratory illness, separate them from other employees and send them home immediately, and frequently clean all high traffic/contact areas to prevent the spread of Coronavirus inside your business.

We’ve discussed that if it’s not essential, it’s not worth it. Some examples of essential travel as spelled out in the order are: Any travel required by law or the switching of custody of a child, travel to get home in Ohio or to a home outside Ohio, travel to care for someone else, travel to obtain supplies or services needed for your home, any travel to do with health and safety, and outdoor activities that adhere to the social distancing standards and mandates on gatherings of 10 or less. It’s important to note that all public and private gatherings of any number of individuals that are not family are strictly prohibited.

These lists and information are not meant to be all inclusive, and we encourage you to do your own research and form your own opinions on best practices based on information you obtained from the Ohio Department of Health. Once you’ve made your decision, be prepared to defend your opinion to the local health department should they ask for reasons you and your business should be deemed essential. The health commissioner may agree with you and allow you to stay open, or he may disagree and ask that you close down and send employees home. Ultimately, whatever decision is made is for the greater good in an attempt to flatten the curve.

Important points to remember: If you’re sick stay home, cover your cough, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and if you develop symptoms you can’t handle on your own, call ahead to any health care provider you interact with.

As of Friday afternoon, Ohio had 1,137 confirmed Coronavirus cases. There were 107 ICU beds being occupied by those sick with COVID-19 and 19 Ohioans had lost their fight and gave up their lives.

Say a prayer tonight for the families of those we have lost, the ones who are sick, and for the workers who are on the front lines fighting this disease.

Remember, we’re all in this together. Be nice.

Public information officer provides latest update

By Branden Jackman

For The Times-Gazette