Coronavirus Update: Public Health Emergency, Recreation Centers, Public Utilities & More
Keep up with regular news updates regarding Columbus and Ohio’s response to COVID-19 here.
The reoccurring message brought up in a Friday morning press conference with Mayor Andrew Ginther and Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts was “not a matter of if, but when.”
Though there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Columbus, health officials are operating under the assumption that the coronavirus is already being spread across the state.
There are now 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, none of which are in Columbus or Franklin county. There are currently 25 individuals being tested in Columbus and Worthington, the cities Columbus Public Health represents. One test has already come back negative.
Anyone seeking testing for COVID-19 must attain a doctor’s order through their primary care provider. Any person that does not have a primary healthcare provider and is showing symptoms should work with Columbus Public Health in order to receive testing.
In addition to major announcements and closings ordered by state officials on Thursday, including the closing of all K-12 schools, Friday morning saw local officials make a few major announcements of their own.
The Columbus Board of Health has declared a local public health emergency, which would enact additional safety measures to the city now before they are needed. If a public health emergency were issued it would allow the city, among other things, to:
- Mandate testing and treatment for individuals
- Quartine and isolate individuals who may resist
- Place police officers outside an individual’s door — emphasized as a last resort
- Control entrance and exit of public areas, an action important in preventing virus hotspots in buildings, facilities and neighborhoods
Columbus has never issued a public health emergency, according to available records.
The mayor said he would not be declaring a local state of emergency, which would mandate all employees, including non-essential city employees, to not report to work. However, local departments are preparing if such an event does occur.
The mayor also made a few announcements that will assist residents with basic needs during this time:
- Insurance co-pays for COVID-19-related treatment will be waived by the city
- Columbus Department of Public Utilities is suspending water and power shutoffs through April 15
- The city is exploring options on how to partner with schools and other services providers to ensure services such as school breakfast and lunch would continue
On feeding children through the extended break, Mayor Ginther said, “It may be different than we’ve done it before.” He gave a few examples of how resources would be delivered to where students are, including through a Columbus Recreation and Parks food program, or in partnership with COTA.
The mayor also indicated the postponing of eviction cases was currently being discussed. A Change.org petition that is going around has requested the city “freeze” rents, evictions and foreclosures.
A Friday morning press conference with Governor Mike DeWine reiterated that daycares and preschools would not be closed, but parents should prepare in the event they do. The governor also recommended parents that are able to take their child out of daycare to consider doing so.
Ohio Job and Family Services will be establishing protocols for daycares, as well as ways to assist family providers. More information is forthcoming.
Mayor Ginther announced that all Columbus Recreation & Parks locations would be closed through April 3.
And a number of other institutions and organizations have announced closures, with the list quickly growing:
- All Columbus Metropolitan Library locations are closed through April 6.
- Columbus City Council meetings will be live-streamed here and on Facebook.
- Columbus Museum of Art is closed and all in-person public programs and events are suspended starting Sunday, March 15. An opening date has not been given.
- Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is closing all indoor facilities and rides, events, tours and programs through April 6.
- COSI will be closed to the public through at least April 3. Events have also been canceled.
- Westerville Public Libraries are closed through at least April 5.
- Franklin Park Conservatory is closed but has not yet given an opening date.
- National Veterans Memorial and Museum is closed until April 8 and special events have been canceled.
- 934 Gallery will be closed with the exception of Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.
- Open Door Art Studio & Gallery will be closed through April 3.
For more information on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.