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These 5 Columbiana businesses have received the most mask order complaints

More than a third of the 68 complaints Columbiana County Health Department received that were reviewed by Mahoning Matters are about five places. In some cases, we found, the county has OK'd exemptions.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to clarify that the Van Pelt's Farmer's Market location that was the subject of complaints was the Salem location.]

LISBON — Gov. Mike DeWine's statewide mask mandate has only been in effect for two weeks, but Columbiana County Health Department has already received 68 complaints that local establishments are violating the order.

More than a third of those complaints are about the same five places.

Rogers Flea Market, Rogers, 7 complaints

When Mahoning Matters visited Rogers Flea Market last week, hundreds of people were at the market, and it appeared more than half — including many vendors — were not wearing face coverings. 

Connie Hughart, who co-owns the market, 45625 State Route 154, said they’ve reminded visitors of the mask mandate over the loudspeaker, have tried to spread out vendors and have moved auctions online. When asked about food vendors working without masks, she said it was too hot, adding that they have medical assistance available because people frequently pass out due to the heat.

“That’s a health hazard in this heat. They are their own businesses. They need to do what’s best for their health in those situations," she said.

Some vendors might be exempt under the order if they meet certain conditions, like working over a hot stove, but the Columbiana County Health District did not say the market had acquired official exemptions.

The inspector who had been in contact with Rogers was on vacation this week. Public Information Officer Laura Fauss said the district has followed up with emails and a phone call, providing information and signage for enforcing masking and social distancing guidelines. 

Horst Subs & Deli, New Waterford, 7 complaints

Horst Subs & Deli, 5437 State Route 7, received an official exemption from the health department; the deli claimed employees could not wear masks for "practical reasons."

Mahoning Matters called Horst, and owner Leon Horst said to call the health department. 

The health department conducted an inspection of the deli after receiving complaints and determined Horst was in compliance when it comes to social distancing of customers. 

The department sent a follow-up email after to notify the deli they had received additional complaints.

"Since they're claiming an exemption, we wouldn't do any enforcement for the mask order," Fauss said. 

Shaker Woods Village, Columbiana, 6 complaints 

The renamed Shaker Woods Village, 4431 Countryline Road, does not start until this weekend, but Columbiana County residents have already made their opinions known about the fact that it was not canceled.

When the Ohio Department of Health enacted an order effectively closing fairs to the public, many assumed Shaker Woods Festival would go the way of the Canfield Fair, which announced July 7 it would not be open to the public.

County health officials have determined that by changing its name — to Shaker Woods Village — and canceling live entertainment, the venue becomes a retail space and thus aligns with state requirements.

So far, six people have contacted the health department to complain that the event has been given the green light.

Fauss said Shaker Woods has been working with the health department on plans for the event. Health district representatives will be on site Friday for set-up and to answer any questions. 

"We'll be there Saturday as part of the inspections for the food, maybe Sunday depending on how long the food inspections take as part of their temporary food licenses," said Fauss.

Van Pelt's Farm Market, Salem, 4 complaints

Since his produce market was visited by the health department, Daniel Van Pelt acquired an exemption that allows his employees to work without wearing masks. 

DeWine's order provides exemptions for workplace conditions and medical issues that prevent people from wearing masks. 

The approved exemption is displayed at the store, 40007 Salem-Unity Road.

"There's some of us around here that have a real difficult time wearing them while we're working, especially in hot weather," said Van Pelt. "Our workload is heavy. Those of us that can, we put them on when we can if we're at least within six feet of people."

The building is open-air, he explained. There is not air conditioning, so it gets hot inside. But, fresh air comes through the building, which lowers the risk of spread. 

"We could hardly be called an enclosed building," he said. "We have the large roll-up doors, and there's a breeze going through there all the time."

Destiny House Church, 49345 Calcutta-Smith Ferry Road, 3 complaints

The three complaints about Destiny House Church in Calcutta claim 30 coronavirus cases have been connected to the church and that it continues to have services. 

While the health district has not been able to reach Destiny House about the complaints, Fauss said Thursday it was not listed as an outbreak location.

Earlier this week, Gov. Mike DeWine sent a letter to Ohio's faith leaders after learning of outbreaks that originated in Ohio churches.

He told a story of an outbreak at an Ohio church in which 91 people tested positive for the coronavirus after one person with the coronavirus attended a service.

“It spread like wildfire,” said DeWine. “Very, very scary.”

DeWine has been careful to exempt religious services from regulations. "The only exception to that is, we're now asking people who attend church to wear a mask," he said.

Destiny House Church Pastor Court Riddle did not comment on the complaints. But he's addressed the issue on Facebook.

"Wear one, don't wear one. That's up to each individual," Riddle wrote in a post on July 12. "Go to church, don't go to church. The issue isn't the mask. The issue is sin. The issue is control. The issue is fear."

On July 13, Riddle posted, "I AM NOT AGAINST MASKS! But I am against doing anything out of fear, based on what the world tells us, or commands us."

More recently — on July 31 — he wrote: "As far as the Ohio mandates are concerned. I am a pastor, not a politician, or the mask police. If you want to wear a mask, wear one. If you don't, then that's your decision."

A full list of complaints is available below. Click here to view a full-size version:

 



Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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