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Lawrence County agencies continue to deal with the new normal

The Lawrence County Commissioners met on Tuesday via a Zoom meeting and got updates on situations around the county.

Lawrence County EMA director Mike Boster reminded those listening in that a good site for coronavirus-related information is coronavirusohio.gov and lawrencecounty.org for the most recent coronavirus updates.

He pointed out that, as of Tuesday morning, the state had nearly 13,000 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases and 2,653 of those people hospitalized and the total deaths over 500, there remains a chance of Ohio’s healthcare system being overwhelmed.

“So, we ask everyone to continue to take the measures that were put in place for self-protection and protecting you and your family,” he said.

He said the EMA continues to follow Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders and said that one of the biggest impacts will be the closing of the schools for the rest of this academic year.

“That changes a lot of things for a lot of people,” Boster said, adding that it has had a big impact on the 2020 seniors who have worked so hard. He pointed out that a lot of schools, locally and probably statewide, celebrated those seniors by lighting up the athletic fields.

“I just want to commend the schools for recognizing their 2020 seniors who, by no fault of their own, are having a different type of graduation this year,” Boster said. “They don’t get the same type of experiences that most of us did.”

Boster noted that, as of Tuesday, Lawrence County had 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 “but the good news is that 13 of those are now out of isolation. So, our cases are recovering well and we’re very thankful for that.”

He said that the governor will probably begin changing what businesses can be reopened, but people will still need to be cautious when venturing out in public.

“I want to remind people, it is incumbent upon us to continue to use the same protective measures that are in place already, so our area doesn’t see a spike in cases,” Boster said. “We want to stay the course in some of those ways.”

Georgia Dillon said she has had conversations with the Ohio Public Health director Dr. Amy Acton and that the pandemic situation will be ongoing.

“The new normal for the next six months is that people will have to wear a mask,” she said. “This virus is going to be around for a while.”

She said it will be around until a vaccine is created, which could be six–eight months or longer.

“This is going to be our new normal and it is a hard normal to get adjusted to. But we are all in this together and we are here for you.”

Dillon said that as businesses start to reopen on May 1 it will be a slow process of rolling out and that businesses will have to deal with personal protection and safety issues.

“We really have to work hard to obey and be personally responsible,” she said. “Distancing must be kept and they will have to wear their masks.”

And people are warned that even as businesses reopen, not to forget that personal safety.

“If you see a business that is overcrowded, just don’t go in,” Dillon said.

She said the health department does respond to complaints about crowded stores and tries to mediate a solution with the stores but that most businesses are doing a good job dealing with those situations.

Dillon then spoke about Lawrence County Health Department environmental director Brian Elswick, who died on Monday after a brief illness. He focused on food service and environmental planning, which was important during the pandemic in helping businesses form plans for their stores and maintaining social distancing and protection.

“Brian had 32 years of health service experience. He was a mentor to everyone here as far as trainings in the county on food services and our own staff,” she said. “He was a great friend of mine and he wanted the health department to be the best and he made it the best. He will be missed and he is already missed.”

The commissioners sent their condolences to the Elswick family and the staff of the health department on their loss.

Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said she had worked with Elswick during pandemic planning.

“He had a depth of knowledge that was invaluable,” she said. “I know he will be hard to replace and Lawrence County has definitely lost a huge asset.”

After Dillon spoke the commissioners gave their reports.

Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. reminded people that next Tuesday is primary election voting day.

The votes are being mailed in and there is no in-person voting.

“Votes have to be in by April 27 and we are coming up on the last few days,” he said.

He said he also wanted to continue prayers for the county.

“I think we have done a great job, we have kept this virus down pretty well by doing the things we need to do. I just want to continue to pray for our seniors, for our kids,” he said. “Like Georgia said, it is going to take a while to get back to the norm, but we have to hang in there and be tough and stay strong.”

Commissioner Colton Copley thanked the people of the county during the pandemic.

“There are so many who have sacrificed so much to stay home and to help those of us on the front line to not have a surge and be overwhelmed,” he said, adding that he and other doctors were really worried about how this would spread and that people have done a good job of curbing the potential number of cases by following the advice of Gov. Mike DeWine and health professionals. “We said at the beginning, we would never know if we overreacted if things went the way we wanted them to go, but we would know if we underreacted, we would have definitely seen loss of life.”