Holmes County Amish Community Practicing Social Distancing

An Amish buggy heads down a road in Holmes County. The county's top health official says the health department is spreading the word about COVID-19 to the Amish community.
An Amish buggy heads down a road in Holmes County. The county's top health official said the health department is spreading the word about COVID-19 to the Amish community. [Shawn O Smith / Shutterstock]
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Holmes County is home to 23,000 Amish citizens — nearly half of its total population. The county’s health department is getting the word out to this community about social distancing and COVID-19.

Health Commissioner of the Holmes County General Health District Michael Derr said Amish citizens in the area tend to be more progressive, and they are following media reports about the virus and protective measures.

He said his department sends out mailings with updated COVID-19 information every week to leaders in the community.

“We want to give them as good of information as we can, and we’re trying to make sure we are respectful to their culture,” he said.

To do that, he said, they send out vetted, detailed information and resources.

“They want to see scientific evidence. They want to see information that is coming to them from an educational standpoint,” he said. “We summarize things like the governor’s order in those, just so we can have verified sources so that they can trust the information more.”

He said so far, the Amish seem to be social distancing.

“I think they’re doing a great job of trying to comply, but also still be able to practice their faith, and if that means church with just their family in their own home, I think they’re trying to do that,” Derr said.

He added that local bishops have been on board with social distancing rules for some time now.

“Early on, before there was ever any governor’s orders, our bishops actually put out guidance to all of the church groups recommending that they cancel church,” he said.

Derr also said he’s heard reports of Amish community members changing funeral practices to minimize large gatherings.

He said overall, they’re taking Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay at home order very seriously.

“They are law-abiding, God-fearing citizens, and they will be the first to say that," Derr said. “So if it’s a law or a directive of the government, they will follow it. It’s just making sure we have the proper channels to deliver that message to them.”

Holmes County has only one confirmed case of the coronavirus thus far.

The Amish settlement spans across Holmes, Wayne and Tuscarawas counties and has approximately 40,000 Amish citizens. Derr said the area is on track to become the largest population of Amish in the country.

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