WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Health Department’s (CCHD) first contact with someone not complying with the July 23 statewide mask mandate is intentionally not heavy handed, said a senior CCHD staffer.
Rather, it’s an “education first” approach starting off, said Clinton County Environmental Health Director Matt Johannes.
Health districts’ staffs are in charge of enforcing the face-coverings mandate that went into effect late last week, he said at Monday’s Clinton County Board of Health meeting where he filled in for the health commissioner.
Clinton County Health Commissioner Pam Bauer worked with the county prosecutor and local law enforcement to come up with a COVID-19 complaint procedure, Johannes reported. Based on the prosecutor’s recommendation, the complaint must be in writing.
For starters, health department staff will call and explain to the offender the mask order, find out if they have any questions, and tell them of its importance.
If there’s a second complaint, a staffer will pay a visit; and after a third complaint ifa business with malice is just not doing what it should be doing, then it’s a third strike against them and it will be turned over to the prosecutor.
But the initial approach, said Johannes, is to approach the situation as an educational opportunity, and try to get across the importance of wearing a face covering when out among the public.
“So it’s not a heavy-handed approach at first. We’re not out there — as the governor has said — to get people in trouble, or to write tickets, however you want to phrase it. It’s more to try to educate, get people to see the right thing to do,” said Johannes.
He added the DeWine Administration is not wanting to crack down on people, “but they are serious about it and want the businesses [and individuals] to take it seriously.”
A Health Department staffer said she had seven voice mails concerning mask non-compliance waiting for her when she arrived at work after the weekend.
Though complaints of mask noncompliance must be in writing, they can be anonymous and leave 0ut any identifying information in case the complainant is inhibited by the possibility of a public records request, for which the health department has to provide the entire document to the person requesting it.
Johannes said a complainant can write a letter with no return address, or can go to the health department office and fill out a complaint form without giving their name.
On another coronavirus-related matter, the Clinton County Health District has been provided $141,000 in funds through a Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant. It is for COVID-19 contact tracing because the local numbers are going up, said Johannes.
The grant dollars are planned to go toward increased hours of part-time staff to do contact tracing as needed.
WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Director Renee Quallen with the local health department said that over the weekend a new COVID-19 case from the Clinton County Fair came through, adding to some cases that came through last week linked to the fair (as reported in Saturday’s News Journal).
Quallen said, based on the timeline, if there are going to be more confirmed coronavirus cases from the fair, they probably will become known this week.
Clinton County Board of Health Chairperson Terri Thobaben asked about the extent of mask wearing at the fair. Quallen and Johannes agreed that the majority of people did not wear masks.
Johannes said the rate varied, with the different Junior Fair species events being very different in that regard.
The Fair Board made efforts in preventive measures, he said, but “the patrons of the fair, it was the old adage, ‘You can lead a horse to water [but you can’t make it drink]’.”
Clinton County Health District Medical Director Terry Kerr Holten, M.D., said she thinks that her and Bauer’s meetings with local school superintendents to help develop plans for reopening and in-person instruction have been productive. Further, she was impressed by the surveys of parents and school staff conducted by the school systems, with each district getting responses in the hundreds.
Clinton County Health District Director of Nursing Monica Wood said they often get results from a rapid COVID test within the same day or next morning, but other COVID testing has taken as much as nine days “so it really varies from lab to lab.”
That’s related to backlogs at some labs and not to the test itself, said both Holten and Wood.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.