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Cleveland To Target Community Spread Of COVID-19 In Residential Settings

During a tele-town hall, Mayor Frank Jackson addressed a resident's social justice question saying he will not defund the police. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
Cleveland City Hall

The next phase in the city of Cleveland’s effort to reduce community spread of the coronavirus will be targeting private settings, including family gatherings, barbeques and street block parties.

At a tele-town hall meeting Wednesday evening, Mayor Frank Jackson said the city plans to shift its resources and personnel to create public service announcements and educational programs to encourage social distancing and mask wearing.

“And we will be doing some enforcement as we begin to move out into basically the residential side of the city of Cleveland,” Jackson said.

“Now, of course, we’re not going to go into people’s homes or into their yards and enforce mask ordinances in that aggressive way,” Jackson said. He did not provide details about how the city plans to enforce its mask ordinance or Ohio’s mass gathering limit.

A statement from a city spokesperson noted that officials from the city’s public safety and public health departments will present a plan to the mayor. Once he has reviewed the plan, they will follow up with the public and share the details.

In early July, the mayor issued an order mandating that people wear masks in public spaces. The state restricts mass gatherings to 10 people.

According to Jackson, the mask order and capacity limits for bars and restaurants have helped the city reduce its COVID-19 cases from a high of more than 100 a day to a low of 13 confirmed cases Tuesday. The city reported 27 cases Wednesday and five fatalities. Jackson said cases in the city are leveling off, and he credited, in part, Gov. Mike DeWine and the state Liquor Control Commission’s restriction on alcohol sales after 10 p.m.   

Contact tracing is now finding that private settings are the main cause of the spread of COVID-19 in the city, he said.

“And not only is that based on tracing as the primary source of new infections, it is now becoming the primary source of complaints that have arisen from neighbors,” he said.

The goal, Jackson said, is zero infections “for a period of time.”

“We Need Police”

In addition to discussing the city's coronavirus response, Jackson delved into the issue of defunding the police durIng the town hall session.

Earlier this month, a group called the Sunrise Movement, which advocates for climate and economic justice, held a demonstration outside the mayor’s home. The Aug. 14 demonstration with more than a dozen people also questioned the perceived lack of progress on police reform in the city.

Mayor Jackson said his position on defunding the police, a cause that has gained traction through Black Lives Matter protests, has not changed.

“We’re not redirecting resources away from them at this time because we need to keep them in place,” he said. “But at the same time, the notion of funding additional things to help people that would help eliminate crime, I’m in complete support of.”

The mayor added, however, the economic toll of the pandemic on Cleveland’s finances means the city needs to evaluate how it spends its limited funds.

Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.