Mask ruling pending

Warren officials explore legalities

WARREN — Warren city officials are exploring the legalities of requiring masks within the city, and are expected today to release their recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The discussion comes after Trumbull County last week was listed as “red alert” or “level three,” under Ohio’s new rating system, one step short of the most serious level.

In the last five days, new cases, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions have slowed, according to information shared Monday during a conference call among city, county and local hospital officials.

Warren Safety Service Director Eddie Colbert said he and Mayor Doug Franklin are making plans based on the data shared by the health officials and will release more information today.

Kathy Cook, CEO and president of St. Joseph Warren Hospital, said the hospital had only two or three patients for a few weeks, but then saw an increase after hot spots popped up in an apartment complex, escalating the situation.

At one point the intensive care unit was full with a “higher level intensity of illness coming back again,” she said. But, this weekend, things began to improve.

Still, signs of renewed community spread in Trumbull County are necessitating harm reduction protocols, said Frank Migliozzi, Trumbull County Combined Health District commissioner.

Trumbull commissioners said they are unable to implement a mandatory mask order, according to a legal opinion they’ve received. The Tribune Chronicle has requested a copy of that opinion.

At commissioners’ request, Mayor Franklin said he’d be willing to consider mandating mask wearing in county buildings within the city.

“I don’t have a problem making an order and applying it to county buildings,” Franklin said, but said he believed Gov. Mike DeWine empowered counties to make their own local rules.

“Each office has the right to restrict and require those coming into their facilities to wear a mask. I don’t have a city order or a prosecutor’s opinion, but I don’t let anyone in without a mask,” Migliozzi said, but added he is awaiting on a legal opinion on the matter.

“Enforcement could be incredibly complex. We don’t have a police division at the health district. We issue notices of violations. If I mandate mask wearing in an order and my staff goes to the mall to look for violators, they have no authority to demand names and addresses. Even if the people gave their information, and we gave them a violation, how we work is we give someone a chance to correct it, and if we catch them again, then we give a second violation, then write a board of health order and go to court. How are we going to know if they continue violating it?” Migliozzi said.

The participants in Monday’s discussion agreed on the need for a public information campaigns.

Miggliozzi said that would include informing the public on these things: Wear a mask in public; avoid mass gatherings, including family gatherings; don’t share utensils or a communal food dishes; wash and sanitize hands; social distance by at least six feet; frequently sanitize high-touch areas; and conduct health assessments.

“The virus doesn’t care about jurisdictions,” Franklin said. “We have to reinforce protocols. Doing nothing isn’t an option and we have to do it together in a cohesive way because people come in and out of cities and townships; we need a regional approach.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)