COSHOCTON – Facing local backlash over a decision to allow them to remain open during the coronavirus shutdown, health officials in Coshocton reversed course and forced U.S. flag manufacturer Annin Flagmakers to shutter.
The City of Coshocton Health Department said Health Commissioner Wendy Redmond gave the maker of U.S. flags permission to re-open on April 13 after they had initially ceased operations as a non-essential business.
By the next day, the city health department was inundated with calls from concerned citizens and employees of Annin about the reopening. Specifics of those complaints were not released.
What was deemed as "the public’s intense response" led Redmond to reconsider the decision. She consulted with the city health board, Mayor Mark Mills, Law Director Bob Skelton, the Ohio Department of Health Dispute Resolution Committee and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. A consensus from the consultations was that Annin should not reopen.
Annin was notified by phone and email of the reversed decision and was told they should remain closed after 10 p.m. April 14. The health department received calls the next morning that the factory was operating. A representative of the health department and the city’s Property Code Inspector Jeff Corder went to the building and enforced closure of the factory as a non-essential business.
Corder said factory administration contacted their parent company in New Jersey and after that call complied with the order to shutdown without incident. Corder said he has not been involved with or knew of any other business the health department has ordered to close.
According to a 2018 Tribune story, about 95 percent of local production is devoted to U.S. flags ranging in sizes from 4x6 inches to 4x6 feet for sale at various retailers. The company had about 150 employees with an additional 120 to 130 temporary hires usually added during the busy season of January to May.
An automated phone message at the local plant states it is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic with a projected reopen date of May 4. The message said a skeleton crew does remain on site.
A statement from Annin’s corporate media relations said its facility in South Boston, Virginia, remains open, but its Ohio manufacturing initially shutdown on March 24. The statement said "we look forward to reopening in the near future to get back to our essential mission of making the symbol of our great nation."
It did not provide direct comment on the situation with the city health department and order to close after the temporary reopening.