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Geauga County focused on helping Amish population

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Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 18:10:22-04

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio — The southeast corner of Geauga County is rural, agrarian and home to the fourth largest population of Amish in the country.

Currently, there are more than 18,000 Amish residents living in the county.

"We've actually had more conversations with the Amish in the community in these past few weeks than I've had with our traditional partners in the community over the last six months," Tom Quade said.

Quade is the Geauga County Health Commissioner. He, along with other people in his department, started reaching out to leaders in the Amish community as soon as the COVID-19 crisis started.

"They don't have computers. They don't have iPhones. They don't have telephones so we did know we had to find a way to reach out to them," said. Dr. Jennifer Williams-Reid. She works at the UH Hospital in the county. Dr. Williams-Reid said about half of her practice is Amish.

Quade told News 5 he met several Amish leaders in March and started asking questions about outreach. Social distancing was going to be the most difficult part. Dr. Williams-Reid said some of the families she sees have 10 members in one house.

So Quade partnered with several leaders in the area spread the message of separating. They made flyers and mailers to send out to the Amish communities.

"We have a ladder. We have a push-pull hoe (and) we have a tape measure," Quade said. They chose things that would be familiar to the Amish community on the flyers. "So they've been working hard. There is still a lot of work to be done."

Several News 5 viewers sent in complaints about the lack of social distancing in the community. A few focused on a gas station south of Claridon on Middlefield Road.

News 5 went to the gas station on twice. Groups of Amish men show up at the gas station then leave for work. Quade said he knows about the issue. On the day he spoke to News 5, he brought it up with coworkers.

"We were talking about ways to handle that," he said. "Obviously, it's very difficult to handle customer behavior."

But inside the gas station there are measures in place to keep people six feet apart. There is one exit and one entry door. There are blue markers on the floor that measure six feet apart and there are signs keeping people back from the register. Only 10 people are allowed in at a time. Gas station manager Diane Liotta said the groups follow protocol when they are inside.

Dr. Williams-Reid said the response from the Amish community is similar to everyone else.

"I see some that for sure would go and do anything they need to do," she said. "And the, I see others that just say well, we will let nature take its course and let God's will be God's will."

Dr. Williams-Reid said there are several home healthcare services that are going out to Amish farms to test for COVID-19. Because some of the Amish population do not drive cars, she said that cuts down on the amount of contact a potentially sick person would have outside of their house.

In an email to News 5, Quade did not give a specific number of people in the Amish community effected by the virus. He said more testing was needed in general.