Council declines to support masks, social distancing, saying it's not necessary

Ken Lahmers
Aurora, Ohio

AURORA – Saying it was unnecessary, a majority of City Council reps defeated a resolution Dec. 14 to support the use of face coverings and 6 feet social distancing practices for all members of the public to reduce and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

Councilmen John Kudley, Jim Vaca and Dennis Kovach introduced the resolution, citing the skyrocketing number of cases of COVID-19 in Aurora and Gov. Mike DeWine’s declaration of a state of emergency and executive orders to slow the spread of the virus.

Those three Councilmen, along with Harold Hatridge, favored the resolution, while Council reps George Horvat, Reva Barner, Kathi Grandillo, Scott Wolf and Peter French opposed it.

The resolution pointed out that the Center for Disease Control recommends the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19, and that Aurora “is experiencing a surge of the virus that threatens to strain our local and regional health care systems.”

It continued, “Additional measures are deemed necessary, above and beyond those instituted by the state and federal governments, to help delay the community spread of COVID-19 in Aurora.

“Wearing a face covering and maintaining six feet or more of distance between one another are important acts of safety and empathy that Aurora residents can do to protect others from infection that may unknowingly be carried and transmitted.”

Kudley explained the resolution was not a mandate, it was merely a request for residents to follow the recommendations of health experts. “We’d simply be making a statement; we wouldn’t make demands, and we don’t want to punish anyone,” he said.

He explained the city has taken measures to curb the spread of the virus on its premises and among its employees, and the resolution was asking residents to do the same. “We’re merely asking residents to be considerate of their fellow man,” he said.

Grandillo and Barner said state and federal officials are already asking citizens to do the things mentioned in the resolution, and thus they didn’t see the need for the city to officially take a stand. “I’m just not comfortable with this,” said Grandillo.

At the end of the meeting, Kudley said he was shocked and disappointed that the majority of his colleagues turned down the resolution.

In a related matter, Council approved legislation to extend the local declaration of a public health emergency to July 1, 2021 or 14 days after the governor has rescinded Ohio’s state of emergency and the Ohio Department of Health director has rescinded the limited public gatherings order.

One of the results of the extension means Council, other city boards and the public will not gather for meetings in Town Hall, but will continue to conduct them online.

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