From staff reports
CELINA - The coronavirus test on a local resident has come back negative, according to a Mercer County Health District news release.
On Wednesday, the district reported that a resident was being tested for novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. On Friday, district officials were notified that the test did not detect the virus.
"While we are pleased that the results are negative, we continue to encourage everyone to take precautions to protect against illness," district health administrator Jason Menchhofer said.
COVID-19 has been classified as a pandemic, and Ohio is experiencing community spread.
"MCHD continues to maintain awareness of the COVID-19 situation on a state and national level and is actively engaged with the local media to ensure that up-to-date, factual information is circulating in the community," the release stated. "The health district is also in communication with various community partners, providing information to aid them in making decisions about upcoming events."
For general information, contact the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 information line at 833-427-5634. For questions relating to Mercer County, contact the Mercer County Health District at 419-586-3251.
Local governments and service organizations are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic and state and federal limits on crowds and interaction.
Local hospitals are limiting visitors and canceling community events.
Mercer County Community Hospital has not seen an influx of sick people or those requesting to be tested for the virus. Hospital staff, though, have been fielding questions from the curious, said Mindy Kremer, Mercer Health vice president of development, marketing and communications.
For information on when and how to seek care for COVID-19, people are asked to call 419-678-5395, and specific direction will be provided on a case-by-case basis. To contain the spread of the illness, people are asked to call their medical providers prior to arriving for medical attention.
In the case of an emergency, and only for suspected COVID-19 cases, call 419-678-5101 to alert emergency department staff of an approaching arrival. This will enable staff to ensure the best care situation for other patients, visitors and employees.
Kremer said she hopes residents follow health care system recommendations. While some may feel the cancellations and precautions are overreactions, the reaction time to any outbreak can determine a good or bad outcome. That makes reacting to pandemics tricky, she said. Maybe later people will look back and say it wasn't so bad, but early precautions may prevent a bad situation. For now, Kremer urged people to take calls for social distancing seriously.
Mercer Health has canceled all community events until further notice. The Hazelnut Coffee shop in the hospital is closed until further notice, and The Cedar Table dining area will be limited to essential personnel. Hospital volunteers have been dismissed at this time.
Extensive visitor restrictions are being developed and will be released soon, Kremer said on Friday. Visitor restrictions for influenza are still in place, and all non-essential visitors are asked to stay away.
Grand Lake Health System issued new visitor restrictions in response to COVID-19 on Friday. A news release instructed people not to visit the facilities, including senior service locations.
Only a patient's spouse, significant other, parent or legal guardian or primary caregiver are permitted. They must stay in the room with a patient and may visit only once per day.
For mother and child or pediatric patients, visitors will be limited to a designated partner or primary caregiver, and only one visitor will be allowed at a time.
No visitation will be allowed from people with seasonal flu or COVID-19, with symptoms to include shortness of breath, coughing, fever, chills, headache, vomiting, sore throat, muscle aches or diarrhea. People younger than age 14 will also be barred from visiting.
Exceptions will be considered based on end-of-life conditions or when immediate family is essential for the patient's care, such as in the case for special-needs patients, those with language barriers or when emotional support is required.
Visitors will be required to register prior to visiting and are reminded to practice hand hygiene upon arrival and throughout their visit. They are also asked to avoid shaking hands, touching or hugging individuals during their visit.
Officials reserved the right to engage security personnel for any visitors unwilling to comply with restrictions.
In addition, all hospital-affiliated classes, support groups and community events will be canceled until April 6 or further notice.
"The health and well-being of our patients, their families, and the community is our top priority," the release reads.
The visitor restrictions will remain in effect until Ohio's state of emergency is lifted or until further notice.
Elections personnel are busy sanitizing surfaces, wiping voting machine screens, disinfecting door knobs and enacting other precautions to keep polling places safe for early voters.
So far, early voting numbers have surpassed those from the 2016 primary election, Mercer County Board of Elections Director Deb Snedddon told the newspaper.
Sneddon on Friday afternoon led some last-minute training for the newly recruited poll workers who replaced those who dropped out amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're working together to make the election happen," she said.
Ohio's primary election is expected to proceed. Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Friday issued a joint news release with elections heads of the other three states with primary elections on Tuesday.
"Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday," the news release states.
All Mercer County voting locations will have hand sanitizer available for voters and elections officials, Sneddon said. Poll workers will regularly wipe down voting equipment with sanitizer, as well as sanitize pens, clipboards, door handles, tabletops and other surfaces.
"All poll workers have been instructed on procedures to follow on election day to minimize areas where virus transfer is most likely to take place, and we are confident that every possible precaution will be taken to protect your safety," a news release reads.
The board also advised voters to take steps, including minimizing socializing while waiting.
"Bring your own pen with which to sign in, and when you are asked for identification, hold it so that the poll worker can read it to verify your name and address and that your identification is still valid," the release sates. "If you pass your identification over to a poll worker, you may request that it be sanitized before it is handed back to you. Consider as well that if you are coughing or sneezing, that you wear a mask to minimize the risk of transmitting any virus; be it cold, flu or other."
Those looking to vote early at the board of elections office can do so 8 a.m.-4 p.m. today, 1-5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday.
Poll workers in Auglaize County will also take precautionary measures, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments. Antibacterial soap will be present at each polling location, and machines and e-poll books will be wiped with disinfectant wipes, according to Michelle Wilcox, director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections.
One polling location has been changed. Voters who would usually vast ballots at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in Cridersville are asked to go to the Auglaize County Fairgrounds Junior Fair Building in Wapakoneta. The change was made due to Otterbein Cridersville's status as a residential facility for the elderly. Wilcox said no other polling locations would be changed.
"I believe we're up to about the same amount that wanted applications for the general (election) four years ago, so yeah, we're definitely a little bit ahead of what would be normal," she said when asked about early voting.
Some local churches are canceling services, and the obligation for Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays has been temporarily suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Worshippers are encouraged to contact their churches for more information on specific services.
The Rev. Kenneth Schnipke of Celina's Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, said part of Catholicism's teachings include that members are obligated to attend Mass every Sunday. However, bishops in Ohio have announced that obligation will be suspended until March 29.
Services will still be held at I.C., Schnipke said, but those showing symptoms of being sick and the elderly are encouraged to avoid attending Mass. Services also will continue to be live-streamed online, which enables worshippers to participate from home.
Schnipke said the church will temporarily not offer the chalice at Communion to help prevent the spread of germs.
Along with the state's order to close K-12 schools, Immaculate Conception school services, CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) services and other youth activities are discontinued until April.
Pastor Chip Steffy of Rockford United Methodist Church said he had received "encouragement" from West Ohio United Methodist Church Bishop Gregory Palmer to consider canceling services due to the virus.
Out of concern for the safety of community and church members, Steffy said services on March 15 and March 22 would be canceled, as would worship services usually held on Wednesdays.
Activities that hinge on the schedule of Parkway Local Schools, including Kids' Club and community meals, will also be temporarily suspended. Other ministries, such as Helping Hands Thrift Store and Parkway Local Food Pantry, will continue to operate on their regular schedule on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Steffy encouraged people to consider their own health in these times, and church officials would work to provide some kind of online worship during the next few weeks.
City officials will close to the public the city administration building at 225 N. Main St., on Monday until further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
All city services will continue
The measure aims to reduce risk of contact exposure for customers, staff and community members, according to a news release on Friday.
"In our ongoing efforts to implement health and safety precautions, social distancing is imperative at this time in the COVID-19 pandemic," the release states.
Two drop boxes are available at the administrative building for utility and tax payments. One is located on the Main Street side of the building to the right of the entry doors, the release states. The other is a drive-up box in the alley along the parking lot.
Utility bills also can be paid online at celinaohio.org.
Residents who need to start new or purchase disposal tags for large items should come to the back entrance of the building and use the red phone for assistance.
Sport team sign-ups will continue and can be completed by calling the city recreation director at 419-584-1041.
Meetings can be scheduled by contacting the utility office at 419-586-2311 or administration at 419-586-6464.
Celina city hall will remain open for emergency dispatch services and the municipal court.
"The city of Celina is committed to its community and its safety," the release reads.
- Daily Standard staff writers Sydney Albert, William Kincaid and Tom Millhouse contributed to this story.