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  • Councilman Dale Miller

Cuyahoga County Responds to Coronavirus Crisis

Cuyahoga County government is doing everything possible to assist in helping to keep our citizens safe during this unprecedented crisis. This is clearly the most serious ongoing crisis that I’ve seen in my lifetime.

The most important thing I can say is how important it is that everyone who is not providing essential services must follow Governor DeWine’s stay-at-home order. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and State Health Director Dr. Amy Acton have provided outstanding leadership in moving aggressively to slow the spread of the virus in Ohio. We should continue to look to them for leadership and trustworthy information going forward. Unfortunately, President Trump first denied the problem, then was late in responding, has failed to mobilize necessary resources, and now is making statements about pre-maturely scaling back social isolation practices. We will do much better to follow our state and local leaders, who are totally committed to our health and safety.

We know that people who are 65 years and older and/or have other medical conditions are much more vulnerable to severe illness and death from coronavirus. People in these high risk groups should be really diligent in practicing social isolation. However, this does not mean that anyone else can be complacent. Even those who have mild symptoms can spread it to others. The spreading can take place early in the incubation period, even before one has any symptoms. This means that anyone, regardless of how healthy they are, who is circulating in public may catch the coronavirus and spread it to others, including vulnerable people not strong enough to survive.

There has never been a stronger demonstration that every person on this planet is connected to everyone else, and everything we do affects everyone else. Even though I am in the high risk group at 70 years old, I am in very good health and confident that I could survive a bout with the coronavirus. What makes me most serious about following social isolation procedures is my strong desire not to get it and then pass it along to others, including people who may not be strong enough to fight it off.

In addition to practicing social isolation, I also recommend paying strong attention to self-care. Eat good food, drink lots of water, stop smoking, don’t drink alcohol or not much, get exercise, get plenty of sleep, do relaxing things to calm your stress. If I take care of my health in the very best possible way, I will be more likely to have sufficient resistance to avoid getting sick even if exposed to coronavirus.

Cuyahoga County has drastically changed its operations to deal with the crisis. County Council cancelled a half dozen committee meetings that we had scheduled for Monday, March 16. Instead, we held a single Special County Council Meeting that afternoon and dealt with all currently pending business. We cancelled the County Council Meeting scheduled for March 24th and all committee meetings and will not meet again until April 14th at the earliest. The Councilpersons and staff are all working from home. The new legislation just passed yesterday by the state will allow us to meet by teleconference with proper safeguards to allow public participations.

The County Administration Building and other county buildings are closed to the public, except for essential services. County employees who can work from home are doing so. County employees performing non-essential services who cannot work from home are not working. County employees doing essential services requiring contact with the public, such as law enforcement and jail administration, are doing so.

On March 9, 2020, Cuyahoga County activated its Emergency Operations Center. This system is used to create a centralized way of collecting, coordinating, and acting on information in a crisis or special situation. Normally, the EOC operates out of secure facilities within the Public Safety Department, but in this case, a lot of the work is being done electronically. The EOC also assists in communications with other public officials and directors by issuing daily reports. I believe that the last time the EOC was used was during the Republican National Convention here in 2016.

The County is also spending a great deal of money buying equipment needed to protect County employees and the public. We have paid $100,000 for an outside contract to provide additional sanitizing services, $10,000 for thermometers, and $580,000 for masks. The thermometers will be used to take the temperature of people entering county buildings when we get to the point when public access can be restored with proper safeguards.

The County is also paying attention to special populations. We are working with the homeless in our shelters to spread them out to more locations, including some motels, so that we can achieve the necessary social isolation. The Metanoia Project and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless are providing similar services for the unsheltered homeless population.

If the coronavirus were to spread in the County Jail, it could be deadly. We can’t have people sitting in jail, putting their life at risk, awaiting trial for a crime for which they may or may not be found guilty. We have worked with the County Prosecutor and the judges to identify people who could safely be released and have done so, reducing the jail population by about 40%. The smaller population will make it easier to keep the remaining population safe.

Safety is our primary concern. We are doing everything possible to help keep our people safe. We have already had two deaths from coronavirus in Cuyahoga County and are working hard to keep the infection rate and the death rate as low as possible. We need everyone’s cooperation, especially on social isolation and good health practices, to achieve that goal.

I am working out of home, but my office is open. If I can be of any help during these difficult times, please call me at home at 216-252-7827 or email at damiller@cuyahogacounty.us. I wish everyone health and safety and look forward to better times, with baseball, and cook-outs, and graduation parties and all the other blessings of being socially connected.

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