Hamilton preparing for gradual reopening of businesses: What the health commissioner says

With the number of coronavirus cases still climbing locally and in Ohio but the increases flattening, Hamilton is beginning to prepare for reopening of businesses, the city’s health commissioner told Hamilton City Council this week.

One thing that should reopen as planned is Hamilton’s farmer’s market, she said, although she did not provide a date.

“This needs to be a walk, and not a run and a jump,” Health Commissioner Kay Farrar said. “We’re all anxious for that. We want to move forward.”

Farrar said she has asked the city’s public health sanitarians to start meeting “and get plans together on how to help businesses open back up” by developing standard operating procedures that will help the general public feel confident that it’s safe to visit the businesses.

“I don’t know how we’re going to open back up,” she said. “That will be the governor’s deal, and we will follow through, and we will help the best we can.”

She noted Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday indicated elective surgeries would be the first things to reopen. She said she guessed barber shops and beauty salons would be among the last, because “there’s no social distancing there — you’re kind of in each other’s face, sharing each other’s air.”

The main things people are doing to slow the spread of the disease are physical distancing and wearing of masks, which she said can be homemade and should be double-sided (not able to be seen through). She now highly recommends use of masks to combat the airborne disease.

Medical-quality masks should not be used by the general public because they are needed for medical professionals and those at nursing homes, she said.

Farrar said the Ohio Department of Health has invested in technology the local health districts started using on Tuesday that will help greatly in the tracking of those who have the virus. It sends them a questionnaire daily, and they report their temperatures. That automation will relieve health nurses from having to call, sometimes repeatedly, each patient.

As of Friday, Hamilton had 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within city limits.

Those people included 15 females and eight males, with one death.

“The primary age group for our positives is 30-40,” Farrar said. “We have eight of those.”

Five of the more recent additions, Farrar told council Wednesday, “have all been able to be associated with clusters or outbreaks,” she said.

Two worked in “an industrial-type setting,” two were in nursing homes or nursing-home facilities and one “is with a home-health-type agency, and they’ve all been associated with previously known positive cases.”

Farrar noted Ohio’s five-day trends for the virus, which can be found at the coronavirus.ohio.gov website, have generally been moving in positive directions. As of noon Friday, the number of new Ohio cases was listed at 577, compared to the five-day average of 894. Deaths were higher (46) than the five-day average of 41, but hospitalizations were lower (78, compared to 88), and intensive-care admissions were lower (20, compared to 28).

About 18-20 percent of patients testing positive have required hospitalization, she said.

Free mental health help available

Ohio has launched a new mental-health care line for people who are experiencing anxiety about COVID-19, or feeling isolated because of physical-distancing requirements, Hamilton Health Commissioner Kay Farrar said.

The toll-free number is 1-800-720-9616.

About the Author