EDITORIAL: By Chuck Gibson, Founder, Publisher, Editor & Journalist, Loveland Beacon online news site – “Shining a Light for Loveland & Communities”

LOVELAND, OH (May 19, 2020) – Loveland, Ohio must reopen businesses to restore the health of our economy crippled by the pandemic quarantine shutdown ordered by federal, state, and local elected officials in mid-March. The people of Loveland must protect our health maintaining social-distancing guidelines set forth by elected government leaders under the advisement of federal, state, and local public health and medical experts. Something has to be said. 

We all know what happened. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic grabbed hold in our own community. Orders came from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on March 15th to close schools, bars, restaurants and businesses; churches closed too. The order was “Stay at Home Ohio” and all things deemed “non-essential” were shut down. The world stopped. 

Chuck Gibson, Founder, publisher, editor, journalist, Loveland Beacon (Provided)

The point was simple then, still is today: protect yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbor from being infected by COVID-19. The coronavirus was suddenly referred to as “the unknown enemy” by government leaders and the media. There was, and is, no certain treatment or vaccine to stop COVID-19. Stopping everything else was the plan to at least “slow the spread” of the virus. Protect the public health, minimized the risk to those most vulnerable; the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions. We became familiar with daily updates of Global, National, Statewide and Local statistics of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths.

28,952 COVID-19 CASES IN OHIO, 1,720 COVID-19 DEATHS IN OHIO! Those are the up-to-date numbers reported by the Ohio Department of Health on the State of Ohio coronavirus (COVID-19) web page through May 19, 2020.

1,504,830 COVID-19 CASES IN THE U.S., 90,340 DEATHS IN U.S.! Those are the up-to-date numbers reported on the CDC coronavirus (COVID-19) web page through May 19, 2020.

The argument has been made here in Loveland, Ohio the quick and decisive action taken by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine – virtually shutting down the state – did indeed slow the spread and “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus COVID-19. Projections painted a far bleaker picture with much higher number of cases and deaths resulting from COVID-19, with hospitals overwhelmed. Demand for medical equipment and protective gear (PPE) was projected to exhaust supply inventory falling short of meeting needs to protect health and save lives. It is likely we’ll never know whether or not the “Stay at Home Ohio” orders made the difference between the higher projected number of COVID-19 cases and the actual lower number of cases to date.

The shutdown was devastating to the economy. Commerce ground near to a complete halt with the closing of businesses, bars, restaurants, retail stores. Especially small businesses and local bars, restaurants and retail shops were dealt a crushing blow. Owners were forced to furlough employees. The fortunate ones suddenly found themselves working remotely from home – teachers had to teach remotely, students had to begin learning remotely from home. Government leaders made some concessions to the closures allowing restaurants to offer carry-out, curb service pick-up and delivery (with safe social distancing procedures). In Loveland, we witnessed an outpouring of support from the community with increased take-out ordering, even online buying from local retail shops. Business owners are grateful, but they still suffered major lost revenue and lost wages for employees. You need more evidence?  Look at the record-setting drop in the financial market the first week of shutdown nationwide. The economic forecast became equally as bleak as early reports of potential COVID-19 cases and deaths.

City of Loveland leaders took steps to assist the community throughout the pandemic shutdown. They closed off public playground equipment to protect public health and safety. City officials designated parking areas for carry-out curb service pick up to assist local restaurants. The State announced dates to reopen in phases with “Responsible Restart Ohio”. After nearly eight weeks of limits, City Manager David Kennedy announced a 60-day expanded DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) plan beginning Saturday, May 9.

What happened?  It can be argued the community threw caution to the wind on that Saturday, May 9, opening of the expanded DORA. Photos on social media showed people congregating in clear violation of social distancing guidelines. On Monday, May 11, City Manager David Kennedy issued a statement outlining modifications to the expanded DORA. The city did NOT shutdown the DORA, but asked the community to be more compliant and offered some additional outdoor seating and signs to help maintain safe social distancing guidelines.

Outdoor dining for restaurants and bars was next up. Friday, May 15, brought another opportunity for Loveland to take the next step on the “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan toward economic recovery. The expanded DORA and outdoor dining options combined with fair weather brought the community out again. What happened? Again, photos on social media and in the news media right here on Loveland Beacon showed a lot of people appearing to have a lot of fun. Yes, safe distancing protocols were in place on restaurant patios and outdoor rooftop dining areas, but images from all around town raised some concerns. The community of Loveland is eager to get back to some semblance of normal. Loveland is ready to restore the economy.

The question is: at what cost?  Are the citizens of Loveland ready to protect our health; their own and the health of their neighbors? Responsible Restart Ohio only works if you act in a responsible manner as restaurants, bars, retail stores and other businesses reopen.

Don’t congregate. Keep your distance – social distance. Use the designated areas for seating and sit with your group. Do NOT crowd into businesses, or crowd in lines as you await the opportunity to enter. FOLLOW the health and safety guidelines set forth by the authorities.

You want Loveland opened for business to restore economic health. You want to protect your health, and the health of your loved ones and neighbors. Together, we all want to minimize the coronavirus COVID-19 while we wait for a vaccine or treatment to eliminate the overall risk. Together, we all want a healthy economy and our community to flourish. We can have both good public health and a thriving economy.

How do we get there? I propose a simple solution based on the response of the community when the pandemic first shutdown businesses. People demonstrated boundless care and compassion for others. People went out of their way to help one another, to protect one another from the risk of the virus. Sure, the human condition took hold and our natural instinct to get things back to “normal” kicked in. It was bound to happen. It is good to see the strength of resilience.

How do we reconcile our personal desire to return to so-called normal activities outside our homes? You don’t want to give up freedoms and civil rights. I don’t want to give up freedom and civil rights. Yet, we each must sacrifice some for the sake of all. Each one of us must decide to do what is best based on our own risk factors. For some that means getting out right away and joining in the restart. Others, will want to wait longer until they feel safe as well.

All of us must consider others in our choices. Businesses will stay open if we protect the public health with care and compassion. Without care and compassion, a spread of the coronavirus could occur and we would likely see a surge in cases and deaths. Businesses would be forced to shut down again. Our world would grind to a halt again. You would not be helping businesses and small business owners. By taking unnecessary risks, you would be hurting our community.

Yes, we need Loveland to open, but we need care and compassion to guide our actions to keep Loveland healthy and open for business and play.

You decide. Remember, the risk is not yours alone.

Editor’s note: Loveland Beacon welcomes your opinion. Please feel free to submit your thoughts on this, or any other topic, according to the submission guidelines published in this “People’s Voice” section of Loveland Beacon. Thank you for reading.