TIFFIN — Seneca County Health Commissioner Beth Schweitzer, MPH, expressed concern Wednesday over the upcoming Seneca County Fair.
Schweitzer’s comments came during a Facebook Live briefing in which she provided updates on the local situation when it comes to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Let me tell you, I have some concerns that are coming up here in the county in the next few weeks, because I know all too well that there are many people who do not follow the recommended guidelines and best practices of keeping that social distance and wearing masks,” Schweitzer said. “And two of those are our county fair and the Attica fair or independent fair the following week.”
Schweitzer said she has been contacted by many people this week that are “very concerned” about large crowds gathering at those events, which she says will “surely cause the spread of the virus.”
“You know, I’ve been asked many times when I think the future of this… Where it’s going to go, and when we might see an end, and those are the times I wish I had a crystal ball that would give me those answers,” Schweitzer said. “But unfortunately I don’t.”
Schweitzer says she regrets not recommending to the fair boards that they cancel this year’s events.
“Looking back, now I believe I probably would have been wise to advise both fair boards that this would not be a safe decision,” Schweitzer said. “At the time, things looked very good here in the county, and unfortunately [now] they don’t. And I’ll be honest, I think I made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”
Schweitzer says she now asks for cooperation from everyone who attends those fairs to be mindful of taking steps to lower the risk for everyone.
“And I’m talking about again, keeping that distance from others, using hand sanitizer frequently, which they are going to have. And wearing a mask,” Schweitzer said. “I know there’s so much controversy about this, but I am a firm believer, and I think there’s been enough research done that shows that we can help prevent the spread to others if we are mindful of doing that. I’ve tried very hard to understand why it is that people are opposed to using those tools that will keep us safe, and keep us from being infected with coronavirus. But it is becoming harder and harder for me as I see how lack of the use of these methods is affecting the number of our cases.”
The Seneca County Fair is set to take place from July 27 through August 2.
Schweitzer says she believes legislation, such as a mandate to require mask-wearing in public, is necessary to get people to follow these guidelines.
“I always thought that providing that information would be enough to help people, to change their behavior. Rather, what people have found, and I have learned this as my education went on, the most likely thing to change people’s behavior is not information, but in fact legislation,” Schweitzer said. “I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I think how much better it would be if we didn’t have to rely on laws to force us to make the choices that are going to protect our health and safety as well as others’ health and safety.”
The Seneca County General Health District reports a total of 84 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday morning. Two people have died in Seneca County with COVID-19, and one person is currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
As of Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 77,215 total cases of COVID-19 statewide. There have been 9,736 hospitalizations in Ohio, with 3,219 total deaths. Additionally, there have been 2,367 admissions to intensive care units throughout the state.