Monroe County declares a Public Health Emergency
In less than a week, Ohio went from preparing for COVID-19 to seemingly complete lockdown.
Schools are closed. Restaurants and bars are take-out only.
Following the lead of Governor Mike DeWine, the Monroe County Commissioners declared a Public Health Emergency in the county Monday, March 16 during their regular meeting.
The declaration came upon the recommendation of the Monroe County Health Department, citing the more than 1,600 cases of COVID-19 in the country, including a daily-growing number in Ohio.
As part of the measure, the commissioners agreed to close the Monroe County Courthouse to the public starting Tuesday, March 16.
The emergency measures will remain in effect until the emergency no longer exists.
Each county department is responsible for maintaining its day-to-day operations during the courthouse closure and emergency.
A locked door and a list of phone numbers for each county office will meet visitors to the Monroe County Courthouse.
The challenge for each department head is to continue offering necessary services while being closed to the public.
Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black has stopped offering web checks and CCW for the time being. There will be no face-to-face visitation for inmates.
Much like the courthouse, the Sheriff’s Office will be locked.
“You’ll only be allowed into our office if it is a necessity” Black said. “My main concern is the 100 inmates we have out there (and our officers).”
Black will not take any new out-of-county prisoners for the next few weeks until the crisis subsides.
County courts will limit cases over the next few weeks.
County Court Judge Jason Yoss will use Skype for as many hearings as he can while limiting in-person interaction to the “most essential cases.”
Yoss offered the use of his courtroom to Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Selmon and Probate and Juvenile Court Judge James W. Peters to help keep people from walking through the courthouse.
Monroe County Clerk of Courts Beth Ann Rose recommended visitors phone ahead, and her staff would attempt to walk residents through handling their needs online if possible.
If a visitor needed assistance, Rose said her staff could potentially meet visitors in the alley near the entrance to the courthouse.
Monroe County Treasurer Taylor Abbott will place the deposit box up at the courthouse and permit other county offices to use the box for payments and legal documents.
Abbott hopes residents will choose to make their payments online. He offered to waive credit card charges during the courthouse closure.
Other county offices not located at the courthouse are also closing to the public. Those offices include the Monroe County Engineer’s Office, Monroe County EMA and Monroe County Job and Family Services (JFS).
The front door at the Monroe County Senior Center will be locked, which is also where the Monroe County Health Department is located.
In each case, the offices will continue to be staffed. Visitors are encouraged to call each agency.
Monroe County JFS recommends any individual needing to do business with the agency for SNAP, OWF, Medicaid or PRC call 1-844-640-OHIO, Option 2 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Individuals will need to visit benefits.ohio.gov to apply or check on the status of their public assistance. PRC applications are available at the JFS page on monroecountyohio.com.
For job search activities and unemployment, individuals may visit ohiomeansjobs.com for job links. A claim can be filed at www.unemployment.ohio.gov or by calling 1-877-644-6562.
Child and adult protective services staff will remain accessible during the closure to the public. Staff may be reached at 740-472-1602, Option 5 during regular business hours, 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 740-213-5794 after hours.
One county department that will remain active for the time being is Monroe County Public Transportation (MCPT).
Denise Potts, MCPT director, stressed her concern for her staff during the health emergency, but due to MCPT’s contract, it is required to continue operation.
Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney James L. Peters said any decision to limit service would have to come from the state level, which has not been given at this time.