LIMA — While Ohio’s Department of Health has issued a statewide order asking people to stay home, those out and about won’t face criminal penalties if they need to make a trip to the grocery store.
Due to an extensive exemption list that includes a large range of allowed activities, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said there’s no plans to make random stops on drivers as many will have legitimate reasons for being on the road.
Lt. Tim Grigsby, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, echoed Martin’s sentiments.
“We’ll still be responding to calls for service. Our troopers are remaining highly visible, but we won’t be stopping drivers to determine compliance.” Grigsby said.
Tami Gough, director of prevention and health promotion services at Allen County Public Health, said that DeWine’s legal order isn’t a major departure from what the governor had been saying in the recent past. Basically, DeWine has been encouraging Ohioans to take responsibility for combating the spread of the disease by practicing social distancing and staying at home when applicable, and Sunday’s escalation acted as an exclamation point to the same messaging.
“It’s nothing we haven’t been asking people to do all along, but it’s just moving it further along,” Gough said. “The ultimate goal is to get everyone to take it as seriously as possible.”
Gough encouraged businesses and individuals to read the 23-page order themselves and interpret it in order to apply it to daily life. Unlike other governmental documents, Gough said the state had written it in relatively simple language just for that reason.
In fact, drivers could find themselves in trouble if they fail to understand the document. While police won’t be actively pulling over drivers, during the governor’s daily COVID-19 press conference held on Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said that those out and about, however, should at least be prepared to explain why they aren’t staying at home.
Sometime down the line, there’s a good chance someone will ask for the reason why an individual is out, Husted said, and so, individuals should at least be aware of the exemptions of the governor’s order to explain why their activities are considered “essential.”
Businesses that are still operating may find themselves under similar scrutiny in the future. Martin said if the police department hears of a non-essential business still in operation, officers will get in touch with that business or business owner. If they fail to provide a reason for exemption, officers may file any pertinent information with the prosecutor’s office.
“If we get complaints or we observe a business that is operating outside the department of health’s order, we will speak to the owner or whoever is in charge and let them know that there are may be penalties,” Martin said.
If that “non-essential” business continues to operate and put employees in danger by not providing a safe workplace, multiple reports would be logged, which could lead to legal repercussions filed against that business owner, Martin said.
To provide guidance for businesses on how to act under the order, Husted named Section 18 of the order specifically during Tuesday’s press conference. The seven-item checklist lays out practices to keep employees safe and healthy during the outbreak.
As for employees who don’t feel that an employer or business is taking adequate precautions, DeWine encouraged workers to read the order, interpret it and then reach out to their local health department, especially if their concerns are not being addressed by the business owner.
“Most people will obey the governor’s order, but there may be some who look to the exceptions listed in the order to justify going out,” Allen County Health Commissioner Kathy Luhn stated in a press release. “The spirit of the order is for everyone to stay home and only venture out if absolutely necessary. This is not about looking for loopholes. Staying home is critical to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in our community and Ohio.”
The complete 12-page stay-at-home order can be found at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.