YOUNGSTOWN — In explaining coronavirus outbreaks in Mahoning County, Mercy Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. James Kravec points to large gatherings — like weddings, funerals and political events — where public health measures are not enforced.
So when Gov. Mike DeWine responded to the state's case surge Tuesday by asking local leaders to "redouble [their] efforts," Kravec said, "I’m not sure [local] government or health departments can do anything. I think you just got to continue messaging to the community."
"Wearing masks is fundamentally important," DeWine said again Tuesday during the state's coronavirus update while noting the continuing increased case count throughout the state. The Ohio Department of Health said Tuesday the state is reporting 191,069 confirmed cases of COVID-19, to date — 2,331 more than reported Monday, including 55 new cases in the Mahoning Valley.
While the state continues to "ban" gatherings of more than 10 people — as well as recommend that Level 3 "red" counties limit hosting and attending gatherings of any size — there are exemptions for First Amendment rights which is particularly prevalent this election season.
On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Youngstown for a campaign event at the Maronite Center to stump for his dad. Video taken by The Business Journal shows hundreds of people packed inside, many unmasked.
In advance of the event, DeWine appeared on a local radio show and encouraged attendees to wear masks.
While the First Amendment provides an exemption for otherwise banned mass gatherings, it does not protect attendees from getting COVID-19.
"I know the governor exempted political functions from that, but I think you’re still at risk even at political functions, of all types. Any gathering of people there's a risk of spread from one person to another, if the social distancing and mask-wearing doesn’t happen," said Kravec.
One local coronavirus outbreak in recent weeks is attributed to a wedding that took place in an adjacent county. The event was responsible for up to 25 new infections and one death, officials said.
During his briefing Tuesday, DeWine focused on the importance of personal choices: "This is about personal responsibility and what each and every one of us can do," he said.
In terms of preventing unsafe gatherings, Kravec said, "I'm not sure what else to do more, without a law."
• According to the latest figures Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 202,740 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 3,889 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 2,404 in Trumbull County; and 2,190 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, there have been 5,239 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 287 in Mahoning County; 134 in Trumbull; and 88 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 286 reported COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 686.
• In nearby counties: Stark, 4,125 cases and 185 deaths; Portage, 1,747 cases and 68 deaths; and Ashtabula, 779 cases and 48 deaths.
• As Ohio continues to report staggering numbers of new coronavirus cases, Gov. Mike DeWine put focus on local authorities to stem the spread on Tuesday. He plans to speak with leaders of counties with the highest incidence of coronavirus spread to discuss ideas they have for responding to the surge.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday, there are 198,446 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 8,696 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 78 percent. There have been 1,034 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 25 deaths; 865 cases in Lawrence County and 34 deaths.
• Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar told reporters Tuesday that postal delays and no ability to prep the 1 million absentee ballots already returned to county election offices means ensuring a fair Pennsylvania election will extend beyond Nov. 3. Both encouraged voters who have yet to mail their ballots to instead drop off their votes with local officials.
• Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley’s Traveling Food Pantry will make a stop Wednesday at Yankee Lake in Brookfield starting at 10 a.m. Families are asked to wait until 9 a.m. to line up. The event will feature no-contact distribution. Participants should remain in their vehicles with windows rolled up and trunks emptied.
• Mercy Health’s Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care mammovan will be at the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, 505 Gypsy Lane, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. To register, visit jccyoungstown.org.
• Mahoning County Public Health has scheduled flu shot clinics for Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at their offices, 50 Westchester Drive, Youngstown. An appointment is required for these clinics. To schedule, call 330-270-2855, ext. 125.
• ONE Health Ohio will be offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing to the Warren community for patients 5 years of age or older on Friday. Testing will be available at the Lloyd McCoy Community Health Center, 1977 Niles Road SE, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Register by calling 330-884-6122 by Thursday at 11 a.m.
• Trick-or-treating will continue as normal for most of Mahoning Valley this Halloween despite the CDC guidelines which list the tradition as a high-risk activity. A few cities have canceled traditional trick-or-treating or created alternative plans. See the complete list at Mahoning Matters DOT Com.