People walk in and out of a Springfield store Thursday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Clark, Champaign County receive ‘C-’ rating in social distancing, according to national data tracking website

Clark and Champaign County officials say they believe most residents and businesses are complying with Gov. Mike DeWine’s ‘Stay-At-Home’ order despite the counties receiving a ‘C-’ rating in social distancing, according to a national data tracking website.

Unacast, an award-winning data company that collects and provides cellphone location data and analysis to the retail, real estate, marketing and tourism industries, recently launched a social distancing scoreboard.

The scoreboard is an interactive map that assigns letter grades to every state and county in the country based on location data and human mobility insights from cell phone data. The data tracks how often residents are leaving their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Unacast’s website.

Both Clark and Champaign County received the ‘C-’ rating because county residents had only shown a 25% to 40% change in the average distance traveled by residents between Feb. 24 and March 31, Unacast’s website said. On average, Ohio residents have changed their distance traveled by 40% to 55%.

Clark County has seven confirmed cases of coronavirus and Champaign County has four, as of Thursday afternoon. Positive cases have been identified in the City of Springfield, Bethel Township, German Township and the City of New Carlisle.

Clark County Combined Health District spokesperson Emma Smales said the Unacast’s data is not a complete picture of social distancing and health district and community leaders are doing “the best we can,” to encourage residents to social distance.

MORE: Clark County hits 10 cases of coronavirus

Social distancing is crucial for preventing the spread of coronavirus, Smales said.

“By minimizing the amount of close contact we have with others, we reduce our chances of catching the virus and spreading it to our loved ones and within our community,” Smales said.

Because there is not a cure or vaccine for coronavirus, Smales said, social distancing is the best tool “at slowing the spread of the virus.”

“Ideally, if we slow the spread enough, our hospital system will not be overwhelmed by an influx of patients needing hospitalization,” Smales said. “If we do not do a good job at social distancing, our hospital systems will be overwhelmed, PPE supplies will be detained and more people will die due to the lack of ventilators and health care workers.”

Smales said “for the most part,” she believes Clark County residents and businesses have been compliant with social distancing and Gov. Mike Dewine’s Stay-At-Home order, which was issued on March 22.

“I say for the most part because we get a lot of messages about people going out with their whole families, or kids at the skate park even though it’s closed, stuff like that. I believe for the most part, people are following this order, but it’s important for people to know that just because you are running an errand, it doesn’t mean your whole family should be running errands with you,” Smales said.

Under the order, all Ohio residents are urged to not leave their homes unless they are essential employees and all non-essential businesses have been asked to close.

On Thursday, Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton signed an order extending the stay at home and essential business until May 1. The extension will go in effect at 120:01 a.m. on Tuesday. It also requires that travelers coming into the state self-quarantine for 14 days and limits wedding receptions to 10 people. Also under Acton’s new order, retail businesses, that are considered essential, are to establish a set number of people allowed in at one time. The state will not set the number because of the varying sizes and layouts of stores. Stores should have the number posted and make sure they do not pass it.

Acton’s order also establishes a dispute resolution panel created by the state will look at how different counties’ public health departments determine which businesses are essential and make sure the order is being enforced.

DeWine said he’s establishing the panel to handle cases where similar businesses are treated differently in different health districts.

Champaign County Health District said in a statement it is “hard to determine the number of people working from home” in the county, however, many employees fall into the essential category due to “our factories employing so many of our residents,” the statement said.

The statement said the Unacast’s data might not be exact because “it can be hard to know the reason for someone’s travel.”

“It may be to work an essential job, get medicine or food, or get exercise outdoors,” the statement said.

While the district believes Unacast’s data may not be exact, the statement said, they do believe county residents could improve social distancing.

“We do believe that our social distancing in Champaign County can be improved,” the statement said. “We encourage everyone to stay home, and when visiting the grocery store or other essential businesses, maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others.”

Smales said the district does not know how many employees in the county are considered essential, but the qualifications for the county’s essential employees are the same as the state’s.

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Smales said the CCCHD has an “enforcement team” that responds to all complaints about large gatherings and businesses that violate DeWine’s order.

As of Friday afternoon, the CCCHD’s enforcement team had received about 220 complaints about businesses, Smales said. The team has received anywhere from 15 to 30 complaints per day since DeWine’s order went into effect, Smales said.

Complaints include everything from questions and comments about why some businesses are considered essential while others are not to businesses not complying with appropriate cleaning.

The team has not had to issue any formal warnings to businesses to force them to comply with the order, Smales said, but has had to have discussions with some businesses.

“Discussion are really just conversations with owners explaining the order in more depth and the importance of complying,” Smales said. “This really comes down to residents and businesses taking this seriously and only leaving their homes for essential activities.”

Logan Casey-Wood, a Springfield resident and an essential worker, said it “most definitely” makes him concerned that more residents seem to be “not taking the epidemic seriously.”

“I’m surprised there isn’t 1,000 confirmed cases (in Clark County) considering most people haven’t changed their actions,” Casey-Wood said.

Casey-Wood said he and his girlfriend visited the grocery store earlier this week and were shocked by how many people were there.

“I think the only thing that will make people take this more serious is more confirmed cases and deaths,” Casey-Wood said.

In Champaign County, the district said in a statement they also have not had to “break up any large gathering or extend warnings.”

“We have been following up on complaints and concerns to ensure and enforce businesses are following the state order,” the statement said.

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Major Chris Clark with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said the county’s dispatch office has seen calls in residents wanting to report businesses for violating the order, but not a high volume.

“That is being referred to the health department, a lot of people have been calling to complain about businesses and whether or not they are essential,” Clark said.

Clark said complaint calls are usually questions about why some businesses are considered essential while others are not.

Springfield City Communications Manager Paul Hicks said their dispatch office has no way to track whether or not there has been an influx in calls to report businesses or gatherings.

“But I can say while the telephone calls we have been receiving have remained about the same, the amount of crews we have been sending out on runs has greatly decreased,” Hick said. “So I think that speaks a lot to the kinds of calls we have been receiving.”

Hicks and Clark said when residents call to report a business not complying with the order or to report a large gathering of people, dispatchers have been instructed to give them the health department’s contact information.

“I will also make contact with the health department too, so it’s a two-fold. I give them the information, and it also allows the caller to give them the information if they want,” Clark said. “But we aren’t actively going on runs to these calls unless we have a conversation with the health department.”

Clark said the county is “fielding the normal amount of calls,” but has seen an increase in the number of calls for respiratory issues. Respiratory issues, like coughing and difficulty breathing, are some symptoms of coronavirus.

“I just hope everyone stays home so we can take care of this,” Clark said.

The Springfield News-Sun reached out to the Champaign County 911 Communications Center to see if they had received calls from concerned residents about gatherings or businesses and did not receive a response.

Clark County residents can contact the CCCHD at 937-390-5600 if they have complaints about businesses and other large gatherings.

“Our enforcement team will investigate all complaints,” Smales said.

In Champaign County, residents can contact the district at 937-653-0110 or email health@champaignhd.com.

“Our top priority is to keep Champaign County residents safe and healthy,” the district said. “We appreciate the help and support from our residents and partners.

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