As the Tiffin City Council law and community planning committee discussed the possibility of holding trick-or-treating for Halloween this year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Aaron Montz said he believes the county will likely reach “red alert” status on Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System due to a rise in cases, deaths, and other factors.
The committee met virtually via Zoom Wednesday afternoon and came to the conclusion that it will wait to make a decision on the possibility of having trick-or-treat throughout the city.
“I don’t think it’s in the city’s best interest to encourage trick-or-treating,” Councilman Steve Lepard said. “I would hate to have my city’s name attached to that, especially when you have kids going up to a hundred houses per evening.”
Councilman Ben Gillig said the city’s role is essentially just to pick a date for trick-or-treating, to which Mayor Aaron Montz agreed — adding that he believes trick-or-treating could be forcefully canceled by the Seneca County Health Commissioner if the county reaches level 3, or “red alert,” on the public health advisory system.
“We’ve in the past just announced what day it is. I guess there’s some question over whether announcing the date means that we are endorsing it as well. Probably so, you know, we’re monitoring the rates locally for cases and what not,” Montz said. “Health Commissioner Schweitzer did tell me that she believes if we do go red, she’s going to order all public events to be canceled. And of course, this would fall under that, as a public event.”
Montz said he believes Seneca County will likely fall under the red alert category, possibly as soon as Thursday when state health officials update the map.
“Looking at a lot of our data, I think it’s more likely than not that we’re going to go red before we go back down to yellow,” Montz said. “Looking at the data out, there was some good news and bad news today. Our active cases dropped by 13, however, the deaths doubled. We went from four deaths to eight. And then hospitalizations have increased to the highest that they’ve been — current hospitalizations.”
The four levels of the Public Health Advisory System are determined by seven data indicators:
- New cases per capita
- Sustained increase in new cases
- Proportion of cases not congregate cases
- Sustained increase in emergency room visits
- Sustained increase in outpatient visits
- Sustained increase in new COVID-19 hospital admissions
- Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed occupancy
Counties at Level 1 (yellow) have no or one indicator(s), while counties at Level 2 (orange) have two to three indicators, Level 3 (red) counties have four to five indicators, and Level 4 (purple) counties have six or seven indicators.
Seneca County is currently listed as a level 2, or “orange alert” county as of Wednesday.
The Seneca County General Health District on Wednesday reported eight new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), making for a total of 238 cases throughout the county. County health officials also reported four additional deaths compared to Monday’s data, making for a total of eight deaths countywide. Of the 238 total cases, 103 cases are considered to be active while 127 are considered to be recovered. There are currently 10 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county.
Montz said those factors are “not going to help us” on the state health department’s ranking system.
“It’s going to be an interesting few weeks here. I think that is her plan, at least the last communication I heard from her is that if we are red, she’s going to cancel public events,” Montz said. “I know the county commissioners have stated that if they go red, that automatically means a closure of all county offices to the public. So it’s one of the things we’re keeping an eye on. I have a feeling that as we get closer to Halloween and trick-or-treat time, which as of now is scheduled for the 25th, Sunday the 25th at 6 p.m. As we get closer to that date, we’ll have better data.”
Montz said unlike the city-sponsored fireworks display, which was canceled entirely for 2020, officials aren’t necessarily “under a time crunch” to make a decision on trick-or-treat. The fireworks display required the city to sign a contract by a certain point for the purchase of fireworks.
“It’s a little bit different scenario here. I think we can wait closer to the date. I hear loud and clear what Councilman Lepard is stating, I would just hate to cancel this far out,” Montz said. “If we are a red county, or heaven forbid, let’s hope and pray we don’t get to purple, that would of course change a lot of things.”
Councilman Dan Perry said he agrees with Mayor Montz, saying it’s “too far out” to make any decisions regarding trick-or-treat for this year.
“I’d rather just see what the situation is closer to October, and kind of react accordingly. Obviously, not looking good now, but maybe closer to October it’ll look better,” Perry said.