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Officials urge residents, businesses to obey order

SALEM

Ohio’s stay-at-home order is now in effect and Salem health and law enforcement officials are asking businesses deemed nonessential to take heed.

Residents, too.

“I am asking everyone to please do their part so that we can get back to normal sooner than later. Please take care of yourselves, your families, and our elders,” Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott posted to the department’s social media page.

Salem City Health Commissioner Lynle Hayes penned a letter to city businesses and included a copy of the order by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and a Guidance for Screening Employees, all aimed at helping businesses understand what’s expected of them.

The health department and police won’t be sending people out to make sure everyone’s complying with the stay-at-home rule — they’re counting on people being responsible. But if they learn of violations, they’ll respond.

Panezott posted Hayes’ letter on the department’s social media page and Hayes distributed the three documents to Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, to send them to businesses. Needs also forwarded the documents to the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce to distribute to its membership and also to members of the Downtown Salem Partnership.

Much of Monday was spent by health officials fielding calls from businesses questioning whether they met the criteria for being essential or not.

When asked about the type of businesses considered essential to keep operating during the pandemic, Hayes said she wouldn’t consider clothing stores, furniture or gift shops to be essential.

“We want people to stay home. We want to slow this down and the only way we know how is separation,” she said.

Hayes said businesses need to read the order by the state and act accordingly and even if a business is essential, those businesses must follow the requirements to make sure people are keeping their distance, washing their hands, keeping hand sanitizer available and staying safe.

City businesses with questions can call the health department at 330-332-1618.

Hayes explained that she did speak with the police chief and “what we’re relying upon here is not having to go to an enforcement route.”

The plan is to keep the situation complaint-driven and hope the businesses act responsibly. The health department’s environmental health director, Alan Masters, though, has been also named as the public health officer enforcing orders.

Hayes stressed the importance of everyone following all the orders related to social distancing and protecting themselves. The hospitals and health care workers still have to handle other health emergencies on top of COVID-19. That’s the whole idea behind slowing down the virus and “flattening the curve,” to not overwhelm the health care system so all emergencies can be handled.

Panezott said his department will assist the health department with any complaints related to the order. He said his officers have been instructed “to be as kind as we possibly can to everybody.”

This is a tough situation with people out of work and with the separation from family and friends, but he’s asking people to keep the 6-foot distance order in mind for everybody’s safety. He said he considers anybody who’s out there working every day to be heroes.

As of Monday, he said there’s still lots of traffic on the streets and people out and about, but added “tomorrow’s going to be a different picture, I hope.”

Police officers are keeping their distance from each other while working and from the public in general. He said they’re doing extra security checks of businesses and they’ll be checking playgrounds and watching for groups congregating. He wants everybody to protect themselves by staying home and also checking on the elderly and their neighbors. He’s asking everyone to do their part.

“I’m really hoping the young people pay attention to this,” Panezott said.

If there’s an emergency, the officers will help every way they can and he’s counting on the citizens to do the same with all the orders in place, to follow them for the good of all, especially the order to stay home.

“I know what a great town we have and what great people we have and I’m confident that they’re going to obey the order and help us out any way they can,” Panezott said.

Needs said she also received a couple of calls regarding the stay-at-home order and advised companies what the order said. She also suggested they call the health department or their legal counsel for advise on what to do. She received confirmation that both MAC Trailer and Ventra shut down and she was expecting more companies to be shut down today.

She said she sent the documents from Hayes to 350 on her mailing list, with the chamber sending them to over 500 chamber members, plus she sent them to at least 30 on the DSP list. She admitted there was probably some duplication but they wanted to get the information out as soon as possible.

The SOD Center office also closed, but she and training coordinator Lesley Kline will be working remotely to keep businesses informed. An updated list of resources related to COVID-19 was sent to businesses Monday. A webinar was also being accessed for businesses regarding the stay-at-home order.

In her letter, Hayes talked about how everyone has the power to fight the pandemic by physical means, with social distancing, hand washing, staying at home, and all the other methods health officials have shared for limiting the transmission rate.

She also talked about the stay-at-home order, which can be enforced by police and the health department.

“This means that a violation of this order could result in a second-degree misdemeanor or a civil injunction, which is a court order requiring an individual to do or not do a specific action immediately. However, we are leaning upon business owners and operators to comply with these orders not only due to possible repercussions, but as an act of humanity and responsibility to protect our most vulnerable populations, health care workers, emergency personnel and all others that may be severely affected. The spirit of this order was not meant to make life difficult or put overwhelming regulation on businesses or people, but to save lives,” she wrote.

For businesses considered essential, she wrote that they must be proactive to ensure compliance with the 6-foot distance rule, having sanitizer, online and remote access, screening employees for symptoms and separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. She also suggested staggered shifts, working with minimum allowable operators, early leave time to prevent crossover contact of shifts, discontinuing non-essential operations where possible and staggered breaks and lunches.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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