Clinton County commissioners want local leeway in COVID-19 management

By Gary Huffenberger -

WILMINGTON — Clinton County commissioners have told the governor they favor more authority for local officials as Ohioans turn to the long-term management of the COVID-19 outbreak.

One size doesn’t always fit all, said Clinton County Commissioner Mike McCarty. So the main thing commissioners are asking for, he said, is a little latitude to try to do what’s best locally for a balance of keeping residents healthy while also keeping the economy going.

“At the end of the day, you want to strike a balance. And I think that’s best done at the local level,” McCarty said.

After discussing the matter, commissioners put together a letter on Monday that all three commissioners could go along with.

The letter states, “Authority for local decisions would help a smaller community such as ours more appropriately respond to our combined health, safety and business needs, understanding that we would continue to seek input and rely on the expertise from our local [Clinton County] Health Commissioner.”

The letter to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine begins with commissioners applauding the many Ohioans who have complied with the Stay-at-Home Order and helped contain the spread of the coronavirus. They wrote, “This is a success story.”

The letter goes on to say the county’s residents and businesses are hurting.

“It is critically important that the employment of our citizens and the vitality of our local business community become a priority as part of the success of managing this pandemic,” the commissioners stated in the letter.

Clinton County Health Commissioner Pam Bauer commented Tuesday on the commissioners’ letter.

“I continue to appreciate that this Board of Commissioners has both interest and concern for Public Health and wellness. They understand that economic stability is not separate from Public Health, and that economic stability is actually a part of Public Health. They fully comprehend that good Public Health is a balance of many measures,” said Bauer.

Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said she wanted the letter to get across that measures that may work for Hamilton County are not necessarily what works for Clinton County.

She thinks with the ongoing help of the county’s Health Department and the county’s Emergency Management Agency that local officials are able to give instructions or help businesses in the community a little better than putting local businesses of a certain sector in the same category statewide.

Woods also wants more details spelled out in advance regarding various business re-openings so the operators have answers and know what’s coming.

The letter puts it: “What we do need from the state level is additional detail outlining, in advance, what the various phases of re-opening entail. This would greatly assist business owners in their preparation.”

Looking ahead toward the long-term management stage of the outbreak, McCarty said “authority for local decisions” could look something like this: If local officials are managing things and they see an uptick of COVID-19 cases, then let the local officials work with the state to manage things at a local level with the state’s help, “not independently, but interdependently,” he said.

And when things are going well, local officials can permit re-openings accordingly, added McCarty.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

By Gary Huffenberger