Greene County officials meet to plan for isolation or quarantine orders

The Greene County Board of Health celebrated its centennial on Feb. 4. Staff photo / Sarah Franks
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The Greene County Board of Health celebrated its centennial on Feb. 4. Staff photo / Sarah Franks

The Greene County Board of Health called an emergency meeting Saturday to put in place a plan if it becomes necessary to enforce quarantine or isolation measures.

The board signed a resolution declaring a public health emergency in the county and allowing the board to enforce a Limitations on Movement, Isolation and Quarantine order, if the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, deemed it necessary.

Documents from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office were signed to reinstate quarantine and isolation orders that have been in place for at least 50 years, said Melissa Howell, county health commissioner. As early as the 1950s, the same orders were used to help guide the decision making when isolating or quarantining someone with a communal disease like typhoid or tuberculosis.

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Although no one in Greene County has tested positive for coronavirus, Howell explained the orders might need to be enforced if an individual who had coronavirus, or came in contact with someone who had it, refused to voluntarily comply to isolation or quarantine.

“Once they go home, we ask them and the hospitals ask them, to keep themselves at home if they’re in that time period where they could still spread the illness,” Howell said. “But if that person chose not to stay at home, then we could issue those isolation orders. If it were someone who was exposed to a case, then that would be where we would issue quarantine orders.”

Most people follow the orders voluntarily, however if necessary, the board could appoint a person to enforce the orders.

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“Law enforcement already has the authority to act based on Dr. Acton’s orders if they believe somebody is spreading illness around,” Howell said. But typically we would just perhaps deputize our own sanitarian, or just a person to watch and make sure someone is staying in isolation and quarantine during the time where they might be transmitting disease or going into the community.”

Although the policies on how to handle individuals in isolation and quarantine are decided on by the board are all adopted at a local level, Howell said she expects other surrounding counties to have similar plans.

“When we are developing them, we develop them together lots of times so you’re going to see very similar actions taken everywhere,” Howell said.

The board considers the county’s risk as still relatively low.

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“We believe the risk is low,” Howell said. “So far we have no cases, anyone that’s been tested from Greene County, as we speak right now, has tested negative. But those numbers are rapidly changing and we believe that there is community spread so it’s just a matter of time before we get our first case.”

Saturday’s meeting was held as Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton held a press conference to discuss updates on the coronavirus and share the state’s response to the virus.

There are now 26 cases in Ohio and 264 people are under investigation for coronavirus the Ohio Department of Health reported.