AKRON, Ohio — In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Akron City Council passed legislation that prohibits large private gatherings and requires face masks or coverings at small private gatherings across the city.
The legislation passed 9-3.
The limitation was suggested by Summit County Public Health as a way to help slow the surge of COVID-19 cases in Akron, primarily happening through casual indoor social or daily gatherings where masks are not being worn, the city said.
Under the legislation, no residential property owner or family in Akron will be permitted to host more than six guests at a gathering. Guests include anyone who does not permanently live in the home, even close family members who live elsewhere.
The legislation also mandates that when small gatherings of six guests or fewer are being held, face masks or coverings be required when a non-resident is in the same room or within six feet. Exceptions include individuals under the age of 10, those actively eating a meal, those with medical conditions who should not wear a mask or when outdoors, and remaining six feet of social distancing.
Property owners or occupants who fail to enforce the requirements of the legislation could be subject to a civil penalty of a $250 fine.
Residents would be able to report in-progress large private gatherings by calling the Akron Police Department’s non-emergency line and past gatherings by calling the Summit County Public Health hotline or submitting the complaint online.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Council President Margo Sommerville sponsored the ordinance.
The legislation will take effect immediately, remaining in place for 30 days, until Dec. 16, unless extended by City Council, and will be enforced by Summit County Public Health with support from the Akron Police Department, the city said.
“Enforcement will focus first on voluntary compliance. Our goal is not to punish, but to educate residents and eliminate the large social gatherings that are allowing COVID-19 to spread uncontrolled within our community,” Horrigan said. “Because the reality is that if we don’t take drastic action now, more of our neighbors and loved ones will die, our hospitals will be overrun, and our restaurants, schools, and businesses will suffer from additional shutdowns.”
Business and community leaders in Akron have issued their support of the legislation as the state faces a potential second shut down.
“The Ohio Restaurant Association supports Mayor Horrigan as he tries to get at the root cause of the fall COVID-19 surge. Thousands of Akron restaurants and small businesses are compliant and vigilant about mask wearing,” said Tod Bown, Managing Director of External Affairs and Government Relations for Ohio Restaurant Association. “They should not be punished because we as individuals aren't doing what we need to do in our own homes. Our members and their employees cannot afford another shut down, but if we do not get back control of the virus, the state of Ohio has threatened to do just that."
The legislation would limit large gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, a holiday that has brought concern to state leaders and health officials as they work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“As Mayor, my highest responsibility is to protect the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of Akron,” Horrigan said. “Limiting private gatherings will help keep Akron businesses open, help get our kids back into the classroom sooner, and most importantly, save lives. Reducing contact with immediate family and friends is an enormous sacrifice for many of us, but we cannot let our guard down even around those we know and love. While it may feel safe, the data shows that COVID is spreading rapidly during family and social gatherings. Holiday celebrations must look different this year. This is the first year that my extended family will not be gathering all together to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I know that it’s the right thing to do to keep my loved ones and our community safe.”