Health Officials Work with Bars, Restaurants for Reopening

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –  With in-person dining reopening Thursday, Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac says members of his staff and sheriff deputies will be working this weekend to ensure restaurants and bars are adhering to safety guidelines set by the Ohio Department of Health.

Tekac says his team as well as deputies, who are a part of Ohio’s Investigative Unit, will not be out so much as an enforcement effort, but to provide education to businesses. Tekac noted that all businesses have been proactive and cooperative in working with Mahoning County Public Health to make sure safety protocols are being implemented.

“As patrons, we not only want to support our local restaurants and bars, but we need to ensure we follow their guidelines and be respectful to everyone who is out,” Tekac said during a health department call with the media Thursday.

The health commissioner said all patrons should remember to maintain six feet of social distance to ensure safety for employees and members of public. He stressed that customers must remain seated when consuming food and beverages while on the premises of the business, there should be no more than 10 people at a table, and that no billiards, arcade games, dancing or playing card games should take place. 

He urged older adults and people with underlying health conditions to stay at home and practice social distancing despite many sectors of business are reopening.

Tekac also announced a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site will begin tomorrow in the parking lot of Walmart, 1300 Doral Drive, Poland, by appointment through Quest Diagnostic. First responders will be given first priority starting tomorrow. 

Beginning next week, the testing site is open 7 to 9 a.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday, weather permitting. Testing will require an appointment through Quest’s app, or online portal at MyQuestCovidtest.com for questions, or call 866 448 7719 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

The testing site is supported by Walmart, Quest Diagnostics, and state and local officials. Pharmacy and technicians will supervise self-administered testing.

DeWine announced earlier this week that units of Ohio’s National Guard are being assembled by Adjutant General Major General John Harris Jr. to assist health department to do widespread testing in long-term care facilities. According to the Associated Press, 14 teams of 10 members of the Ohio National Guard will assist health departments with testing, with teams consisting of medically qualified Ohio Air and Army guard personnel.

Tekac said he wasn’t aware if any units will be deployed locally. Dennis O’Hara, director of Emergency Management Agency, said state officials discussed the deployment in a state call this week. 

“The state didn’t advise how they will be deployed. If we see the National Guard in the county or region, know they are working with long-term care facilities,” O’Hara said. 

Residents of long-term care facilities who showed symptoms of COVID-19 were tested, however, mass testing wasn’t being done because of a shortage of tests. 

Many nursing home and assisted living owners locally have contracted with private labs to conduct testing, while others have utilized tests prom the state that were provided to local health departments. 

According to Ohio Director of Medicaid Maureen Corcoran, who is overseeing a committee on testing in these centers, there are 115,000 residents and 100,000 workers at senior care centers in the state.

Ohio’s efforts to curb the spread of the infectious respiratory virus, such as restricting visitors since March 13 and deploying strike teams to centers with outbreaks, has had little effect as the number of positive cases among nursing care facilities has increased to 1,410 cases among residents and 466 staff members have tested positive this week, according to Ohio Department of Health. Deaths from COVID-19 have increased this week 878.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.