Geauga County Receiving Reports of Amish Residents Not Social Distancing

Middlefield Mayor Ben Garlich, Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand and Health Commissioner Tom Quade stand with a ladder and garden hoe to represent what six feet of social distancing looks like to the county's Amish community. They plan to use the picture in mailings and billboards in areas where Amish citizens reside.
Middlefield Mayor Ben Garlich, Geauga County Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand and Health Commissioner Tom Quade stand with a ladder and garden hoe to represent what six feet of social distancing looks like. They plan to use the picture in mailings and billboards in areas where Amish citizens reside.
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The Geauga County Health District has received numerous complaints that some Amish residents in the area are not practicing social distancing, which is needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Health Commissioner Tom Quade said some residents have expressed concerns that those in the Amish community are still holding church services, going to school and riding in packed vans, known informally as 'Amish taxis' that transport them to grocery stores or their place of work.

"(The Amish are) not all the way there yet, certainly, but they are making progress," Quade said.

So far, Quade said he's heard of at least five churches that have canceled services. He said he met with a group of superintendents in the Amish community to work out a new plan for schooling, as students are not able to do virtual learning.

“What they’ve been doing is having students in very small groups come to the school for no more than 15 minutes, pick up their lessons, and go home," he said. "But because we want them in small groups, it makes it look like the schools are still open, but they’re actually doing what they’re supposed to do.”

He said in some cases, teachers are going out to students' homes and delivering the lesson plans to them. 

"That does carry risks as well, so it's one of those trade-offs," he said. "Their students have requirements just like the non-Amish students in terms of their hours of curriculum, and so forth, and so this is better than having the classroom where they're in there all together for a long period of time."

He said officials in his department as well as the prosecutor's office have been enforcing the state's stay-at-home order for businesses and residents. He said the reports of people not following the rules are not solely from the Amish community.

 “Yes, this is an issue in the Amish community, but it’s an issue in the non-Amish community as well," Quade said. "We have a number of folks in both communities that are doing a really good job of keeping their distance and not being out and about unless they really need to, but we have too many yet, both Amish and non-Amish, that still quite haven’t figured out the difference between 'what I need to do and what I want to do.'”

Quade said he and his staff have sent out COVID-19 mailings to Amish households. He and other local officials took pictures representing what physical distancing looks like, and are thinking of putting the images on billboards in the area.

The Amish settlement stretches across southeast Geauga County and is concentrated in Middlefield. Quade said about 25% of the county's population is Amish.

Health officials from Holmes County, where nearly half the population is Amish, say that Amish residents there are following social distancing guidelines

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