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Cuyahoga County Prepared To Enforce Health Rules As Businesses Reopen

Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan talks to reporters during a briefing on April 28, 2020 [CCBH]
Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan [CCBH]

As some Ohio businesses prepare to reopen, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health will enforce rules to keep employees and customers safe starting next week, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan at a media briefing Tuesday.

“The vast majority of cases, folks want to comply. There may be concerns about the rules and how it affects their business. This has been incredibly disruptive and we recognize that,” Allan said.

For those that don’t comply, the county has a mechanism to increase enforcement, such as formal hearings or addressing the issue through court action, he said.

County officials have fielded more than 6,000 calls on their hotline since the governor issued his original stay-at-home order, he said. Many of those calls were from business owners or their employees who needed further clarification about how to comply with the state directives, he said.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday his  “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan, which outlines a staggered reopening plan. Beginning on May 4, some businesses, such as manufacturing, construction and general office environments may reopen, but they must meet mandatory safety requirements for customers and employees.

Those guidelines include requiring face coverings for all employees, recommending masks for clients and customers, conducting health assessments of employees, sanitizing the workplace and limiting capacity to meet social distancing guidelines.

“It’s clear that public health has been charged by Gov. DeWine to continue to work in that space to help businesses problem solve to address complaints that may emerge, to address questions about which businesses can operate, how they should operate,” Allan said.

County health departments are also asked to increase their capacity to do contact tracing. The time-intensive work involves communicating with people who test positive for COVID-19 to find out everyone they have been in close contact with, interviewing those individuals and asking them to self-isolate for a period of time.

Cuyahoga County is in the process of accessing how many additional staff members it will need to do the contact tracing work, Allan said. The county may seek volunteers to help with this effort.

A group of medical students from Case Western Reserve University has been helping with local contact tracing efforts, but there is going to be a need to ramp up, Allan said.

“We have staff onsite that have been detailed because of their programs being put on hold, and so those staff have been detailed in to assist with contact tracing,” he said.

The county will determine a specific number of people it needs to add to the contact tracing team in the coming weeks in order to build up over the summer. This will assist with planning for a potential surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall, Allan said.

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.