Butler County health commissioner: Floodgates won’t open May 1 as businesses come back

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer is warning residents the “floodgates” won’t just open on the economy May 1, but there will be a slow, measured approach in coordination with state officials.

Bailer said the state is working hard on a plan to gradually relax restrictions that have kept all but essential businesses shuttered and many people sequestered at home.

“I sense that there is an impression out there that on May 1 we’re just going to open the floodgates and we’re all going to go back to normal and do everything we’ve been doing,” Bailer said. “That could not be further from the truth. On May 1 we’ll start rolling out slow and gradual re-openings of things and we’ll be measuring ourselves as we do that.”

She said she doubts restaurants will be one of the first types of businesses to reopen for in-person service, but as an example, an eatery with a capacity of 100 may be instructed to only allow 50 diners. As each sector reopens, she said officials will gauge the impact on the number of positive COVID-19 cases and move on to the next wave of re-openings.

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She said local health commissioners have some “leeway” in how the reopening will unfold, but she added that, in Butler County, “ we will stay in line with the Ohio Department of Public Health as best we can and work with them lockstep.”

In the past week the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Butler County increased by 64, from 124 to 188. The death toll remains at three. She said people can expect numbers to continue to rise as the economy comes back, but for a different reason.

“We’ve been testing only the sickest people and that will change here as we get more capacity in our testing systems,” Bailer said. “We’ll be testing folks who might not have been tested a couple of weeks ago, so we do expect our numbers to increase somewhat just because of that testing.”

Bailer and Jones have been holding twice weekly livestreams on Facebook Lie but will reduce the meetings to one a week. Bailer’s office also was issuing more detailed epidemiology reports twice weekly, and those reports will also be issued once a week on Thursdays. The latest one from April 13 showed the highest number of cases, 27, in the 45044 zip code that encompasses parts of Liberty Twp., Middletown and Monroe with a population of 58,057.

Middletown Health Director Jackie Phillips reported 25 cases as of Monday. Seven people have been hospitalized due to the virus and two are still there.

The report showed 23 confirmed cases in the 45011 zip code with 75,578 residents living in parts of Fairfield. Hamilton, and parts of Fairfield, Liberty and West Chester townships.

Jones reported there is still one jail inmate quarantined because of a positive COVID-19 test. Most police agencies have been doing some of their work via the phone rather than in person. Jones was asked how things will change with his operation on May 1.

“We’re gonna see what happens when the governor comes out with what he’s doing,” Jones said. “We’re still fighting crime, we’re still arresting people and our employees, we have two that are stay-at-home today because of an incident they were involved in. We’re over precautious to protect our employees.”

He said none of his staff, including those two employees have tested positive.

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