Businesses, Organizations Report Virus Precautions, Event Cancellations

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As the fourth case of COVID-19 in Ohio was confirmed late Thursday afternoon — this time in nearby Stark County – and Mercy Health St. Joseph Warren Hospital confirmed it treated a patient who subsequently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, countless businesses and organizations – here and nationwide — are informing the public they are taking extensive precautions to comply with public health recommendations and extensively clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

At the same time, public events are being canceled and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is poised to announce new restrictions on large public gatherings as well as restrictions on visitors to nursing homes.

“The most important thing is for people to ask themselves, ‘Should I go to that event? Is it important? Can it be postponed?’ ” DeWine said.

“We shouldn’t panic, but we should take rational actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and others. What we are seeing with this virus is predictable, and we have the ability to control risk. Every expert has told us that there is a risk in any kind of mass gathering, so you must ask yourself if going to a large event is worth the risk.”

The latest COVID-19 case in Ohio is a man in his 50s with no known contacts with other patients. Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton said this signals that Ohio has reached “community spread,” meaning people diagnosed with COVID-19 are unsure of when or how they caught the coronavirus.

Ohio is currently testing 24 people who have shown symptoms of respiratory distress and has cleared another 21 people, officials said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Among public events canceled locally is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for Sunday in Boardman, the Salem Regional Medical Center Foundation Gala on March 21 at Waypoint 4180 in Canfield, the Youngstown Goodwill Gems Jewelry Sale & Charity Auction set for Friday, and Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s state-of-the-city address scheduled for March 25 in Bliss Hall at Youngstown State University.

Organizations issuing public notices of ramped-up health precautions include the Southern Park Mall, which, in addition to outlining it’s “proactive plan” to contain the virus, is asking all guests, store and mall employees who are ill to stay home.

The Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, which operates the Jewish Community Center, Heritage Manor Rehabilitation & Retirement Community, and Levy Gardens Assisted Living. “We have increased the frequency of our daily cleaning/disinfecting of all frequently touched surfaces,” the organization said, and hand sanitizers are widely available. The federation is also limiting visitation at its senior care centers.

In a joint letter to members, also distributed to reporters, Rick Marlin, president of the federation, and Andrew Lipkin, executive vice president, said, “One person on the federation staff recently attended a conference that was also attended by a few individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. This staff person is asymptomatic, and was not in direct contact with anyone who has tested positive. A personal doctor, the state board of health, and the county board of health have been consulted. All agree this person’s risk is low. However, in an abundance of caution, this person is staying at home.”

Others announcing extensive public-health precautions include the Public Library of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and Eastern Gateway Community College.

The library said it was maintaining regular operating hours, frequently cleaning high-traffic areas and temporarily “removing Items such as costumes, soft-sided toys, puzzles, and board games that cannot be easily sanitized. …We encourage individuals in vulnerable groups to consider whether coming to the library is in their best interest.”

All scheduled performances at the Robins Theatre in Warren will still take place. “Artists, partners and agents have not informed us of any plans to cancel or postpone any event,” said event coordinator Alyssa Connelly-Bissett. “Obviously, the decision to avoid crowds is a decision that one must make individually. If you are not feeling well, we encourage you to stay home.”

Eastern Gateway reported that 88% of its students already take online courses and therefore the community college “is ideally situated to make this transition as seamless as possible for students, staff and faculty,” said Interim President Michael Geoghegan.

A task force monitoring the situation determined today that The Police Academy, ASPIRE and workforce development programs will continue as scheduled beginning March 16. All other classes held on-campus will be canceled March 16 and 17 “to provide time for faculty to return from spring break and make adjustments to their classes for the remainder of the spring semester,” the community college said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Related Stories:
March 12: Coronavirus Fears Wipe Out Area Retail Shelves
March 12: DeWine Closes Schools, Bans 100-Person Gatherings
March 12: Nursing Homes, Hospitals Implement Virus Precautions
March 12: SBA to Provide Loans for Businesses affected by Coronavirus
March 12: Area Events Cancelled, Postponed by Coronavirus
March 12: Eastgate, Chambers of Commerce Cancel Annual Meetings
March 12: Business Begins to Feel Economic Toll from Virus
March 11: Breaking: St. Joe’s Cared for Patient Who Has COVID-19
March 11: Local Business Reacts to Spread of Coronavirus
March 11: Businesses, Organizations Report Virus Precautions, Event Cancellations
March 11: Seven Local Polling Sites Moved Due to Coronavirus Concerns
March 11: Coronavirus Update: Not Enough Tests
March 10: DeWine Recommends Limiting Large Indoor Gatherings
March 10: YSU Extends Spring Break, Finalizing Plans for Alternative Instruction
March 10: Mercy Cancels Health Day Amid Ohio’s 1st Coronavirus Diagnoses

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