Crowded weekends, COVID-19 outbreak have Put-in-Bay residents on edge

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 09:33:41-04

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — Put-in-Bay residents are on edge after locations around the town were packed with people last weekend, and after the county's board of health confirmed an outbreak the weekend before.

The Ottawa County Health Department and Toledo-Lucas Health Department have confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 occurred at Put-In-Bay between June 17 and 21.

As of Tuesday, seven people have tested positive for the virus. The health departments are asking anyone who was at the island’s bars and restaurants — including the Commodore Hotel, The Mist and Mr. Ed’s — to quarantine for two weeks and monitor for symptoms.

Permanent residents of the island worry the small community will not be able to withstand a potential large virus outbreak with limited healthcare resources.

“There’s not a robust medical system here on the island,” Jessica Sarstedt said. “If something were to happen, if there was an outbreak, it could really be dangerous and possibly deadly for a lot of people.”

Sarstedt said the island has been bustling with crowds of people for weeks.

“It really looked like any other weekend prior to a pandemic,” Sarstedt said. “Out of the thousands of people I saw this weekend out on the island, I think I saw between five and ten people wear a mask.”

Sarstedt worries despite the first confirmed cases tied to the area, people will still be flocking to the island for the upcoming holiday weekend.

“I’m personally leaving the island before the holiday weekend because I’m so concerned,” Sarstedt said.

Put-in-Bay Mayor Jessica Dress said she was alarmed by images of large crowds at bars and restaurants failing to practice social distancing on the island over the weekend.

“Obviously I’m highly concerned about these reports and these pictures we’re seeing,” Dress said. “We want people to feel safe when they come to Put-in-Bay.”

However, she said enforcement of social distancing guidelines falls on the Ottawa County Health Department.

“We’re also striking a balance between infringing on business owners’ rights and public safety,” Dress said.

Ottawa County Health Director Nancy Osburn Told News 5 the department has limited ability to enforce COVID-19 precautions at businesses and does not have the authority to issue citations.

“We contact the operator of the business, inform them of their responsibilities under the current director’s orders for Responsible Restart of Ohio,” Osburn said.

When the department receives complaints, a conversation with the particular business owner is often the only form of disciplinary action.

“Review with them that we have received complaints,” Osburn said, “And ask them how they will be proceeding to remedy the issues.”

Osburn confirmed to News 5 the Ottawa County Health Department has received written and verbal complaints about the following Put-in-Bay businesses:

  • Joe’s Bar
  • Mr. Ed’s Bar and Grille
  • Blue Marlin Tiki Bar and Grill
  • Splash Swim-Up Bar and Pool
  • The Roundhouse

Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms is urged to seek testing for the virus. Additionally, individuals without symptoms can also request testing since people may have the virus but may be asymptomatic. Asymptomatic individuals can still spread the virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath, headache, loss of taste or smell and fever.

“The virus can spread when people are in close proximity to each other and not wearing face coverings,” said Nancy Osborn, Ottawa County Health commissioner. “The public must understand the importance of personal responsibility and take the vital steps to protect themselves and others from the unnecessary transmission of COVID-19.”

Anyone who visited the establishments listed above and is symptomatic is asked to call the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department at 419-213-4100, Ottawa County Health Department at 419-734-6800 or their local health department.

“Anyone could have COVID-19 and you may never know because some people with COVID-19 are not yet sick, and never have symptoms of the disease,” said TLCHD Health Commissioner, Dr. Eric Zgodzinski. “With that being said, we need to treat every person as potentially being infected with COVID-19. We are urging everyone who ventures into public places to take precautions, including wearing a mask and social distancing, to keep infections down.”

To read the mayor of Put-In-Bay's statement, click here.

The Erie County Health Department said multiple residents are waiting on COVID-19 test results after going to PiB.

The health department is asking anyone who went to the island on those days to stay home and monitor their symptoms.

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