With COVID-19 cases soaring, leaders have urged Hamilton County residents to stay at home for Thanksgiving and not have large gatherings.
They are looking at whether they can issue anything stronger than just a plea, said Denise Driehaus, president of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.
“I’m in conversations indirectly with the other commissioners here in Hamilton County on that point,” Driehaus said. “More to come on that.”
It’s not clear what, if anything, local governments can do to break up large gatherings this holiday season to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Officials in Franklin, Montgomery and Cuyahoga counties have issues “stay-at-home” advisories urging residents to not leave their homes unless necessary, though no penalties are attached to those who don’t follow the guidelines.
The governor’s mandate to wear a mask rarely brings any consequences, records from health departments show.
A forthcoming state health order sets an overnight curfew for Ohioans, with several exceptions, starting Thursday, but Gov. Mike DeWine doesn’t expect it will be strictly enforced. The state still has an order in place limiting gatherings to 10 people, but health officials across Southwest Ohio said people aren’t abiding by that rule.
What is clear: The rise in COVID-19 cases has alarmed Driehaus and health commissioner Greg Kesterman.
More new patients were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Hamilton County this past Saturday than any other day in the pandemic, Kesterman said, with 494 new cases. There were 4,000 new cases total last week and 10 deaths.
“Our team was very busy responding to each one of those positive cases and attempting to contact everyone,” Kesterman said.
Hamilton County remains on the red level on the state’s COVID alert map, the second most severe designation based on exposure to the coronavirus.
So Driehaus and Kesterman urged people to fight the urge to gather with others outside their immediate family this Thanksgiving. Consider a Zoom call over the Internet or a small, spread-out meal outside,
Driehaus said she plans on celebrating Thanksgiving with her mom via Zoom rather than in person. They’re looking into apps that’ll allow them to play the card game euchre online.
“Taking no precautions and celebrating like normal is a recipe for disaster,” Driehaus said.