City of Akron Limits Private Gatherings to Prevent Continued Uncontrolled Spread of COVID-19
Hospital, public health, and business leaders support measure to restrict large gatherings
Akron, Ohio, Monday, November 16, 2020 – Akron City Council passed legislation to prohibit large private gatherings and require face coverings at small private gatherings in the City of Akron, based on the recommendation of local public health officials and healthcare leaders. The limit on private gatherings was recommended by Summit County Public Health and the City’s three hospital systems (Summa Health, Akron General Cleveland Clinic, and Akron Children’s Hospital) due to the ongoing, uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Akron and Summit County, primarily through casual indoor social or family gatherings where masks are not worn.
The ordinance—sponsored by Mayor Horrigan, Council President Sommerville, and Councilpersons Fusco, Omobien, and Samples—was amended to also urge surrounding communities and federal, state and county authorities to take similar coordinated action. The legislation, available here, takes effect immediately and will be enforced by Summit County Public Health. Akron’s limit on private gatherings will remain in place for 30 days (until December 16, 2020), unless extended by City Council, in consultation with Summit County Public Health.
Akron’s ordinance follows the recent announcement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that hospitals across Ohio are reaching capacity and that the Ohio Department of Health will consider additional business shutdowns if conditions do not improve.
Health Commissioner Donna Skoda described the exponential growth in cases locally, “We are experiencing a surge of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The 7-day average for daily cases was 33.7 on October 1st, 97.1 on November 1st, and 245.4 on November 14th. Now is the time for all residents to wear a mask and not gather with people outside of your household. Whenever possible, meet outside or in a well ventilated area. You may save the life of someone you love.”
“We understand that this is a serious step,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said, “and that is because we are in an extremely serious situation. We are unfortunately at the point where our hospitals are reaching maximum capacity, have already cancelled some elective procedures, and may soon have to start rationing care if the trend of COVID infections and hospitalizations continues. We know that spread is occurring through social and family gatherings – we need Akron residents to appreciate that these gatherings are not safe, and may result in devastating consequences for your family or someone else’s. We are asking the community to give us 30 days and to join us in stopping this deadly surge—because if we don’t, more of our neighbors and loved ones will die, our hospitals will be overrun, and our restaurants, schools, and businesses will suffer from additional shutdowns.”
Under Akron’s temporary Private Gathering Ordinance (until December 16th):
Large private gatherings are prohibited:
No household in the City shall host more than 6 additional visitors (non-residents) at a private gathering
Visitors include anyone who does not permanently reside in the home, even family members who reside elsewhere
Small private gatherings are permitted with restrictions:
For small gatherings with 6 or fewer outside visitors – masks must be worn at all times when a non-resident is in the same room or within six feet, unless an exception applies
Exceptions include: individuals under 10 years old, when actively eating a meal, those who should not wear a mask due to a medical condition, or when outdoors and maintaining 6 feet of social distancing, etc.
Property owners or occupants that fail to enforce the requirements of the ordinance and host large gatherings could face a potential civil penalty of $250. Enforcement of the order will be conducted by Summit County Public Health (SCPH) with support from the Akron Police Department.
“Akron Police will not be patrolling looking for large gatherings, but responding to complaints and taking reports on behalf of Summit County Public Health for follow-up civil enforcement and education. All enforcement will be complaint-driven, and focus first on education and voluntary compliance,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Charles Brown.
Reports of in-progress large private gatherings should be made to the Akron Police Department non-emergency line at 330-375-2181. Reports of previously held large private gatherings, or other COVID-related complaints, can be made to the Summit County Public Health hotline at 330-926-5795 or online at https://www.scph.org/report-non-essential-businesses-or-operations.
The City has received support from business and community leaders, including the chief executives of all three Akron hospital systems, who joined Mayor Horrigan is presenting the legislation to the Health and Social Services committee Monday afternoon.
“With the number of COVID cases continuing to rise across the state and throughout the county, it is critical that we all come together to take the precautions necessary to protect ourselves and each other,” Dr. Cliff Deveny, President and CEO of Summa Health said. “I applaud the efforts of our government officials to help keep us safe, and I encourage everyone to wear your mask, utilize appropriate social distancing, practice proper hand hygiene and avoid large crowds and indoor gatherings.”
“As of Monday morning, Cleveland Clinic Akron General has 61 patients with COVID-19 in the hospital. A month ago we had 17. We need everyone to take action now,” said Brian Harte, MD, President of Akron General. “Please help our caregivers by doing your part to wear masks, social distance, and please avoid gatherings this holiday season. Personally, my holiday celebrations will be small dinners with our family of five. No friends, no extended family. We have to do this for each other.”
“Those of us in healthcare are watching with increasing concern the current surge, and worrying about our hospital systems’ abilities to handle additional volumes,” added Grace Wakulchik, President and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital. “Despite our planning, ongoing discussions and cooperation between hospitals, current volumes and the upward trend we are seeing in COVID cases are cause for great concern. Your healthcare workers want to be ready for you and your loved ones should you need us. Please limit your gatherings, wear masks consistently and social distance.”
Local business, retail and restaurants also have a vested interest in the measure. If the upward trend of alarming case numbers continues in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine has threatened that some shutdown protocols may be imminent. The Greater Akron Chamber is supportive of the private gathering ordinance, as it would help control the spread of COVID-19 where it is happening most and provide a safe path for local businesses to remain open and functioning during the pandemic.
“Businesses have already been hit so hard during this pandemic and most are doing everything possible to keep their customers and employees safe as they work to regain their footing,” says Steve Millard, President & CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber. “Our economy relies on the strength of our businesses and the ongoing employment of the people who work here. Focusing on small gatherings, mask wearing, social distancing and proper hand hygiene are critical to our ability to keep businesses open and position this region for the strongest economic recovery and growth moving forward.”
Tod Bown, Managing Director of External Affairs and Government Relations for Ohio Restaurant Association added the Association’s support, saying “The Ohio Restaurant Association supports Mayor Horrigan as he tries to get at the root cause of the fall COVID-19 surge. Thousands of Akron restaurants and small businesses are compliant and vigilant about mask wearing. They should not be punished because we as individuals aren’t doing what we need to do in our own homes. Our members and their employees cannot afford another shut down, but if we do not get back control of the virus, the state of Ohio has threatened to do just that.”