Trumbull Hotels Used as Shelters During Outbreak

WARREN, Ohio – As the coronavirus outbreak spreads through Trumbull County, agencies serving the homeless population are using hotels to provide shelter.

During the Trumbull County Combined Public Health Board’s weekly update call Friday, Sister Jean Orusto, who runs the Emmanuel Community Center in Girard, asked what the county’s plan is to deal with the homeless population. Health board officials said that they would connect with the county’s Emergency Management Agency through coordination with the emergency operations center. A spokesperson for the EMA said local agencies should follow their own emergency preparedness plans and call the Red Cross for assistance.

April Caraway, director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said she has been working with Orusto and other advocates for the homeless population and is providing funding to use a local hotel as a temporary shelter. The Amos Christy House homeless shelter is at capacity and does not have the room to follow social distancing guidelines.

Alicia Williamson, director of  domestic violence shelter Someplace Safe is in the same predicament. Some people at shelters are sick and some hotel rooms are being used as temporary housing, but the cost is a limiting factor going forward.

State modeling projections suggest 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in Trumbull County through May 1, according to the county health board. The figure is based on the state’s modeling using data from cases that have already been diagnosed. It was sent to the health board as communication for preparedness purposes.

“We hope we’re nowhere near that. The numbers are based on modeling from the state so we can make sure that we have enough protective personal equipment and we’re not caught off guard,” says Natalie Markusic, accreditation coordinator for the health board. “Keep in mind that someone may seek treatment from their normal doctor, but results still are reported to us.”

Markusic reports that Trumbull County has 71 cases of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus, and six deaths. State surge modeling projections are the county may see an additional 750 cases from now until April 15, another 650 cases from April 16 through May 1. Beyond that, the model forecasts 550 more diagnoses.

Kris Wilster, environmental director for the health board, says the inspectors are investigating complaints – about 30 per day – of businesses that reportedly are in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order pertaining to businesses that provide nonessential service. Reports can be made by calling 330 675 7841.

Mahoning County Public Health is working closely with the Mahoning County Prosecutor Office and the county sheriff to enforce social distancing among residents and businesses, says Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac. The sheriff has provided two or three officers to “educate the businesses to give their workers as well as their patrons a chance and an opportunity to come into compliance,” he says.

Recently, the Mahoning County health department has worked to close three freestanding lottery booths that were operating but not considered essential, Tekac says. 

“We have been out over the past week to close them down and we’ll continue to do that,” he says.

In the past week, Mahoning County Public Health has worked to close freestanding lotto booths, including the Lucky Lotto booth in the Burlington parking lot.

In light of Gov. Mike DeWine’s extension of the stay-at-home order until May 1, Tekac advises residents and business owners to take responsibility for themselves and to work together to abide the new guidelines, including the new headcount limits that businesses have been charged by the order to establish. 

“They are responsible for making sure that that number is adhered to,” Tekac says. If the health department receives complaints from either the business or consumers, it will investigate the complaint with law enforcement, he adds.

For consumers, Tekac advises having a plan in place before going out to shop for essential items, and to avoid browsing. He suggests sending one person per family to do the shopping and to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for cleaning groceries brought home to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“It truly takes a community effort, and this is when we need to come together and help each other out,” he says.

Pictured above: Sister Jean Orusto, director of Emmanuel Community Center in Girard.

Jeremy Lydic contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.