COVID-19 in Ohio: Summit County issues stay at home advisory until Dec. 16

Emily Mills
Akron Beacon Journal

Summit County has issued a stay at home health advisory in response to the current surge in the coronavirus pandemic.

The advisory, issued Thursday morning, will remain in place through Dec. 16, unless an additional advisory is issued.

The advisory urges all residents to stay at home "to the greatest extent possible" due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county. Residents should only leave home to go to work or school, or for essential needs, like seeking medical care, going to the grocery store or pharmacy, picking up food or receiving deliveries.

Because it's an advisory, not an order, it won't be enforced, and there are no fines or other punitive measures attached to it.

More:Which Summit County communities have the highest COVID-19 infection rates? The data explained.

Residents are "strongly advised" to wear a mask and observe social distancing in the presence of others, avoid traveling in and out of the state, forgo having guests in their homes during the upcoming holiday season and utilize online communications wherever possible.

Residents are advised to limit meetings and social events — including indoor and outdoor events, birthday parties and other events that may occur at a banquet hall, event venue or other similar space — to 10 people starting Thursday.

Houses of worship are recommended to continue to implement all virus transmission prevention protocols and limit the number of people in attendance to ensure safe distancing at all regular services.

A meeting or social event that is outside of normal operations is advised to have no more than 10 people. All gatherings should provide space for adequate social distancing and require mask wearing.

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Residents are “strongly advised” not to have any indoor gatherings with guests in their homes, unless they require services from essential workers, like plumbing, heating or electrical repair people, and should wear a mask and observe social distancing if those services are necessary.

The advisory encourages employers to move as many employees as possible to working from home. Businesses and local governments are advised to move as many transactions and functions as possible to online, and both public and private K-12 schools are directed to monitor cases within their district and community.

"Shifts to learning modality could become necessary," the advisory states.

Summit County has recorded 20% of all cases during the eight-month-long pandemic in the last week alone. 

As of Thursday, Summit County has had 11,659 total reported COVID-19 cases, 1,142 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 300 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The county's hospitals said they're nearing capacity and are also reporting dozens of employees are out sick because of community spread of the virus.

The positivity rate for the state has risen from 3% to 12%, and Northeast Ohio hospital systems are reporting even higher positivity rates, according to the stay at home advisory, which said "additional guidance, advisement, warning and intervention is warranted to mitigate case growth and preserve hospital capacity."

“We are seeing an alarming trend in both the number of cases and the positivity rate of COVID-19 in Summit County. We have to change our behaviors and routines to slow the spread of this disease in our community,” Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said. “Please stay home as much as possible. If you have to leave your home, wear a mask and distance from others."

More:COVID-19: Medina County issues 'stay at home advisory'

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Residents showing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should shelter in their home. They shouldn't go to work and should only leave their homes for necessary clinical care or essential life-sustaining needs, like medicine or food.

COVID-19 symptoms include, but are not limited to, new onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath, congestion or runny nose, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, body aches or unusual fatigue.

Residents diagnosed with COVID-19 by a laboratory test must isolate for 10 days from the date of their symptom onset, or from the date of test collection (until they’re experiencing symptoms). In the home, sick or infected individuals should separate themselves from others by staying in a specific “sick room” or area, and use a separate bathroom, if available.

Residents who have been identified as a contact to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 should quarantine for one full incubation period (14 days) from the date of last contact. People in quarantine should stay home, separate from others, monitor their health and follow all instructions from their local health department. Residents who are either confirmed positive or a close contact should not wait to hear from the health department but should immediately start following the isolation or quarantine guidance.

"We are quickly approaching a tipping point in the county and the state. We must take collective action beginning today. If we do not, we are putting the lives of our friends, family and neighbors at risk and threatening the ability of our hospitals to provide care to patients,” Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said. “We have all made immense sacrifices this year. We all are feeling exhausted, but I am asking the residents of Summit County to continue to prioritize the health and safety of our community.”

Summit County joins several other counties that have issued stay at home advisories, including Medina, Cuyahoga and Franklin counties.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at emills@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @EmilyMills818.