While praising Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, several Delaware City Council members April 13 questioned the governor’s approach for rebooting Ohio’s economy when the current stay-at-home order is lifted.
During an April 14 press conference, DeWine said the largest issue is not when businesses will reopen, but limiting the spread of the coronavirus when it happens.
Delaware City Council member Lisa Keller, during council’s April 13 remote meeting livestreamed on Facebook, said, “I feel like maybe we have a communication breakdown going on between the state and the local level. I think that maybe there could be some improved communication happening between the governor’s office in terms of what the plans are moving forward.
“I listened to the governor’s press conference today and was concerned about some of the vague language being used about the length that this is going to be going on. ... I’m looking for more guidance from our state in terms of what this reopening is going to look like,” she said.
She added she was “not second-guessing at all the decisions that are being made.”
Council member Cory Hoffman said he was thinking about “how many people literally we’re telling them they can’t earn a livelihood and all of the pain and suffering, mental illness, what have you that comes along with that.”
He cited what “other countries and jurisdictions have done to reopen up, and I don’t see that from the governor yet – and that’s not to criticize all the great things he’s done. Municipalities, we have a role to say. ... We’re going to be on the front lines of reopening our economy. What’s going to happen here? And I just think that we need to put the governor’s feet to the fire in that regard.”
Council member Kent Shafer said the economic downturn during the stay-at-home order is unsustainable.
Council member Drew Ferrell said warmer weather will increase economic pressure and make it harder for people to stay at home and maintain social distancing.
“The ‘when’ is one question, but ‘how’ is a bigger question,” DeWine said April 14, in reply to a reporter’s question.
When businesses reopen, conditions won’t be the same that existed before the pandemic, DeWine said.
During the reopening, “(the) coronavirus, as far as we can tell, is still going to be very much here. It’s still going to be, for some people who get it, deadly,” DeWine said.
“Based on everything that I know – and this is the hardest thing for me to accept and so I suspect it’s hard for other people to accept – ... until there’s a vaccine, this monster, as I’ve referred to it, is going to be lurking around us,” he said.
DeWine said he can’t imagine businesses will reopen without all employees wearing protective face masks.
“What everybody needs to be thinking about, and this is to every business out there champing at the bit to reopen ... you need to be thinking, ‘How am I going to open? What am I going to do every single day to keep my employees safe, my customers safe? .... We’re going to work with you on that, but that’s something you should be thinking about right now,” DeWine said.
Hoffman asked why the city of Delaware couldn’t take part in the “testing and tracing” that’s being conducted by other jurisdictions.
On April 7, Delaware General Health District commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said coronavirus tests are conducted only on a doctor’s orders.
An April 11 story in The Columbus Dispatch said a shortage of test kits continues to hinder efforts, as well.
“Of course, everyone wants to know what happens next. No one knows,” said council member George Hellinger. “And it’s because we’ve never had a pandemic like this in the recent past, the last 100 years. ... There’s no way you can know that. That’s why this is a learning process for everyone.
“Even though, today, we may say we have a tentative course of action, know that could go totally out the window,” he said.
City Manager Tom Homan said leaders are discussing the pandemic’s fiscal impact on city government.
“It’s hard to know the depth and the length of what this downturn is going to mean for the city,” he said.
During the April 13 meeting, council approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to amend the lease with Delaware Community Space LLC, also known as COhatch, 18 E. William St., to defer payments consistent with Ohio Executive Order 2020-08D, designed to assist small businesses in maintaining solvency during the pandemic.
Council also passed a resolution authorizing a pandemic-related utility assistance program, affecting bills for water, sanitary sewer and trash collection. The program’s citywide credits will total $100,000.
Council discussed using online platforms and mailings to notify the public of the program.