Clark County Health Commissioner is encouraging residents to maintain social distancing standards as they observe the Memorial Day weekend with activities like this family having a picnic along Buck Creek in Snyder Park Friday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Coronavirus: Health commissioner warns of possible post-Memorial weekend spike

The Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner is asking residents to continue to follow social distancing guidelines this Memorial Day weekend to prevent cases from continuing to spike.

Commissioner Charles Patterson warned that Clark County is still not at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic curve and that the county is seeing a surge right now, with cases going up, “at a pretty good clip right now.”

Clark County had 183 cases, three deaths and one probable death of the coronavirus as of Friday, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website.

“We are still riding that curve. I worry a lot about Memorial Day weekend because it’s going to be good weather and people have been cooped up inside and want to be with their families and do all the stuff that they haven’t been doing,” Patterson said. “But we have to pump the brakes.”

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The weekend’s biggest event — the Springfield Memorial Day parade — was canceled late last month due to Gov. Mike DeWine’s restriction on gatherings of no more than 10 people. Parade Master Jon Stewart told the Springfield News-Sun he wasn’t sure if the event had ever been canceled but came to the decision after meeting with Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck and Patterson.

Patterson said he’s not asking residents, “not to have fun,” but instead asking everyone be mindful of remaining six feet apart and wearing a mask in public when possible to keep the virus from traveling.

“We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the holiday weekend. We just need them to be careful and responsible as we do it,” Patterson said.

Seemly the complete opposite of what Patterson is asking county resident to do this weekend is a photo on social media that appeared to show Catholic Central High School seniors not adhering to social distancing guidelines. Patterson brought up the photo in a Facebook Live on Friday.

Patterson described the photo as a large group of students dressed in prom attire seen arm-in-arm in a yard in front of a large black poster that reads, “6 feet.”

“They were all packed together holding that sign and mocking the fact that we are supposed to be social distancing and basically saying, ‘we don’t care we are going to do this anyway,’” Patterson said. “That’s some people’s idea of something this is funny. I did not laugh at that. Especially because, at the time, I was dealing with a death certificate of someone who had just died.”

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Patterson said he understands that as the county health commissioner he “sees things through a different lens.”

“But it was very sad to see that when we are dealing with something as serious as someone’s grandmother who had just died,” Patterson said.

Catholic Central Interim President Tim Fogarty said in a statement sent to the Springfield News-Sun that the school was unaware of the gathering until “a member of our community forwarded us photos that had been posted to social media.”

“We have been told that this was held at the home of one of our seniors. If this is true, we are very disappointed that a member of the Catholic Central community would host such a gathering in defiance of Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order,” Fogarty said.

Patterson said he understands that emotions are beginning to run high and residents are anxious for more freedom.

“We are asking everyone to do their part and not participate in those kinds of things, then that will help to slow this thing down in our community,” Patterson said.

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