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Akron will not renew ordinance restricting private gatherings set to expire Dec. 16

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Posted at 1:41 PM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 13:41:23-05

AKRON, Ohio — After issuing an ordinance prohibiting large private gatherings in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases surge across the state, the City of Akron announced it will not renew the ordinance and will let it expire.

The legislation, which passed in November, and was met with small but vocal protests, expires on Wednesday, Dec. 16, and will not be renewed at this time, according to Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan.

Under the legislation, no residential property owner or family in Akron is 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 failed to enforce the requirements of the legislation were subject to a civil penalty of a $250 fine.

Horrigan said that he believes the ordinance “captured people’s attention and resulted in voluntary compliance by residents" across Akron. The mayor said that the city was never forced to issue fines, and that police, as well as public health officials, implemented the private gathering rules with “professional compassion and sound judgment.”

While Horrigan thanked those who followed and helped implement the ordinance, he said that measures like the private gathering ordinance will not be effective in slowing community spread due to the lack of similar ordinances on a wider scale.

“Akron is the center of hospital and medical care for the entire County of Summit, and surrounding counties as well. The City and hospital systems unsuccessfully urged other cities and authorities to assist in scaling up these important restrictions,” said Horrigan in a press release. “In consultation with our public health officials, it is clear that this impeded effectiveness, as Akron daily welcomes workers, patients, and visitors from across the region. Without appropriate scale, public health measures such as ours will not be effective in slowing community spread.”

The City of Akron will continue to look for ways to help residents navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, but said the area remains “within the darkest days of this pandemic.”

Horrigan said that Akron is reactivating regional plans in regards to mass casualty protocols, including the use of mobile morgues and auxiliary hospital facilities.

Read Horrigan’s full statement below:

The City of Akron private gathering ordinance expires on Wednesday, December 16th. The City will not be seeking a renewal of these restrictions at this time. The data was, and remains, very clear: community spread of COVID-19 is happening at home. The private gathering ordinance was an attempt to disrupt complacency, counteract misinformation about where risk is greatest, and urgently increase COVID protocols within citizens’ homes to slow the spread of this deadly virus.

I am confident that this ordinance captured people’s attention and resulted in voluntary compliance by residents across our City. I have heard of many families that made the decision to cancel or scale back large gatherings based on this law, and that was exactly what needed to occur. In terms of enforcement—we effectively deployed an education-based approach. We were never forced to issue fines, and both police and public health implemented the private gathering rules with professional compassion and sound judgment. I thank them for their efforts.

However, Akron is the center of hospital and medical care for the entire County of Summit, and surrounding counties as well. The City and hospital systems unsuccessfully urged other cities and authorities to assist in scaling up these important restrictions. In consultation with our public health officials, it is clear that this impeded effectiveness, as Akron daily welcomes workers, patients, and visitors from across the region. Without appropriate scale, public health measures such as ours will not be effective in slowing community spread.

While other cities and states have banned or more strictly limited private gatherings–Akron’s ordinance was specifically designed to uphold citizens’ Constitutional rights and allow residents to continue to gather with family and friends in a responsible way. Akron small business owners and families are financially, socially and emotionally exhausted during this pandemic, especially those with loved ones fighting for their lives in ICU beds right now. Our priority remains to help our residents navigate the loss, fear, and uncertainty of this pandemic. We are here to continue to serve you, no matter what.

We remain within the darkest days of this pandemic, and it will be months before we begin to emerge from it. The local conditions have only worsened since early November, when Akron’s three hospital systems came together to ask us to take this action to help them save lives. Summit County has since turned ‘purple’ and many medical providers are facing even more urgent staffing crises, and have begun to cancel elective procedures. We are currently reactivating regional plans regarding mass casualty protocols, including the use of mobile morgues and auxiliary hospital facilities.

Lives can still be saved, but only if we take our shared responsibility to one another seriously.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank you—the Akron residents who have done your best to follow public health guidelines, change your behavior, and sacrifice daily for the health and wellbeing of your families and neighbors. And especially those who continue to work in healthcare and on the front lines of this pandemic across our community. To me, your sacrifices and commitment exemplify patriotism. One day, hopefully in the coming months, we will be able to look back on this challenging period and be proud of the lessons we taught our children and grandchildren about how to care for one another and about the resiliency of the Akron community.

RELATED: Akron passes legislation to prohibit private gatherings of more than 6 guests ahead of Thanksgiving