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Summit Co. health officials urge residents to wear masks, practice social distancing during July 4 weekend

Posted at 3:39 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 18:40:01-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Summit County Public Health officials held a press conference on Thursday, ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend, encouraging residents to wear a mask in public and maintain social distancing guidelines while in public or going to gatherings or celebrations.

Ohio is seeing a steady increase of cases across the state, but also in Summit County.

Officials said that wearing masks while also practicing social distancing, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, is important “even if you’re just in the backyard for a picnic.”

“We are asking residents to diligently wear a mask whenever you are in public,” Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said.

State officials said they have been receiving complaints about people not wearing masks or not wearing masks correctly and reiterated the importance of wearing a mask while also noting the importance to wear a mask correctly, making sure to cover both your mouth and nose while also making sure it is snug while still being able to breathe.

Summit County health officials reminded residents that the Ohio Department of Health has sent out postcards for the random sampling of COVID-19 antibodies across the state, including to residents of Summit County. Public health teams are going around the community asking those who consent to donate blood samples to trace COVID-19’s past spread in the state.

“We’re seeing an uptick in cases that we didn’t expect right now. We don’t have a hold of this,” said Tara Mosley Samples.

The Akron City Council member wants to make face masks mandatory within city limits.

“There’s some pushback,” said Samples.

The proposed legislation would not allow people in public places without a mask that covers their nose, mouth and chin.

“When you go into a grocery store you see signs that say no shirt, no shoes, no service. So now we’re adding masks to that,” said Samples.

There would be some exemptions – including when someone is eating or drinking, if they’re prohibited by law in the workplace or not advisable for health reasons.

Akron’s mandatory mask proposal comes on the heels of another major Ohio city unanimously passing a similar ordinance.

“We’ve been working on this since April. Just so happened Dayton crafted theirs,” said Samples.

Council members are currently using that approved legislation as they make changes to theirs – including the punishment for breaking the ordinance.

“It’ll be a civil penalty, and that’s one thing we looked at Dayton’s and I said I want to make sure we tweak it because at first it was going to be a misdemeanor, but we’re tweaking it, it’ll be civil,” said Samples.

The Akron City Council will vote on the mask mandate at its next meeting on July 13.

Meantime, Samples wants to see similar action coming from the Statehouse.

“We need our governor, he can’t walk this back, because we have a problem here in Ohio,” said Samples.

If passed, Akron’s face mask mandate would remain in effect until the Federal Drug Administration approves a vaccine for COVID-19.

Ahead of the council’s meeting, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan is analyzing current trends and data around COVID-19 cases in the city and considering whether a mandatory mask order is necessary.

He told News 5 in a statement that he is working with council members to make a data-driven decision.

Health officials also said that during the holiday weekend that “amateurs should not be setting off fireworks” from their homes to make up for the numerous canceled fireworks events across the county and the state.

Mishandling fireworks cause numerous injuries every year and the county is trying to limit hospital capacity amid the pandemic so that healthcare workers can focus on patients with life-threatening illnesses, officials said.