Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner was the solo host of Thursday’s weekly Facebook Live news conference and told those who logged in that he thought it was time to transition from “flattening the curve” to “finding the balance.”
He said he had been giving thought to the next step in the fight against COVID-19, indicating that people embraced the “flatten the curve” message and perceived its value as a call to action.
“The flatten the curve message was one that resonated and it drove people to make changes,” he said. “I think the issue we find ourselves at right now is where do we go from here — what’s the message we need to focus on now to explain the purpose behind doing things different.”
He said the next step, in his opinion, should be to “find the balance,” which he described as a point between protecting the high-risk populations and the health care system, and yet allowing access to normal, everyday life.
“What’s the balance between business as usual and safely protecting the community?” he asked. “We’ve done everything we need to do to prepare for a possible surge, so right now I think we need to find the balance to open up things as much as we can and still protect those high risk people.”
In terms of cases of COVID-19, he reported that Highland County has had a total of 28 cases of the virus consisting of 21 confirmed cases and seven probable, and with 20 recoveries.
One person remained hospitalized, but he said that person was expected to be released soon, that seven individuals were still classified as “actively sick,” and that 24 people were under quarantine and being monitored for symptoms.
In preparation for Saturday evening’s scheduled Black Lives Matter protest march in Hillsboro, he said his office would make available 100 cloth masks for the organizers and supporters to use.
“We had seen some reports of cases that have occurred in the Columbus area where positive COVID-19 protesters had shown up,” he said. “It’s an issue of concern and we’re taking some common sense steps to try to keep people safe.”
He said that face coverings, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding close contact with other people are the rules that will apply to events like Saturday’s protest “as we move forward.”
In reviewing some of the changes that have come from the Ohio Health Department director’s office, while the no more than 10 person mass gathering rule remained in effect, he said that the restrictions regarding gatherings at a private residence or adjoining property had been rescinded.
“So if you’re having a graduation party or having people over for a special occasion, none of these stay-at-home orders restrict any of that activity,” Warner said.
One other clarification dealt with wedding receptions, which are now allowed in groups up to 300 so long as they have met all of the restrictions that a restaurant would have to adhere to.
“We’re getting to a little bit of a strange place right now with some of these orders,” he said, “where we’ve got a lot of exemptions and a lot of individual rules, and it’s getting difficult for our staff to keep track of what’s allowed and what’s not.”
Warner said his office was engaged in ongoing discussions with the Highland County Fair Board concerning moving forward with the early September event, “trying to figure out what fair planning was going to look like.”
The other big concern the health department was involved in was sorting out all of the contingencies for reopening schools in the fall. He said plans were coming together for meetings with school boards and superintendents.
“This will allow us to see what makes sense, and how we can find that balance between opening schools safely and getting back to as close to normal as we can,” Warner said.
The next Facebook live news conference will be Thursday, June 11 at 12:30 p.m.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.