Lewis Hill reads the “Closed” sign on the doors at the Springfield City Hall Monday. Hill said he had come down to City Hall to pay his water bill but was directed to go to a drop box. The City of Springfield offices closed Monday at 12pm due to the health crisis. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

‘This is going to be a long term thing’: Springfield, Clark Co. warn of coronavirus impact

Officials with the City of Springfield as well as Clark County have declared a state of emergency in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The declaration comes after officials in Springfield announced Monday afternoon that all city government buildings will be closed from the public until at least April 16. However, crucial city services, as well as those in the rest of the county, will continue with added precautions.

“It’s very important that Clark County, like all other employers right now, take our employees health and wellness very seriously,” Clark County Commission President Melanie Flax Wilt added. “We serve the public and we serve some members who are the most vulnerable, socially and economically. And we have to keep those essential services available to them.”

Officials with both the county and the city asked residents, in terms of paying bills or filing certain paperwork, to do so online if possible.

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In addition, the City of Springfield announced that it will suspend residential water disconnections on past due accounts in the meantime. The decision comes in “the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that may compromise local families’ means to meet financial obligations,” according to a recent news release.

However, city officials still encourage residents to continue to pay their utility bills if able, but clarified that the city will not shut off their water due to non-payment at this time. Payments can be made at www. springfieldohio.gov or at one of two payment drop off boxes; located on Fountain Avenue near City Hall, or at the Service Center located 2100 Lagonda Ave.

Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson said during a joint press conference with Springfield and county officials Monday afternoon that the City of New Carlisle has also expressed interest in adapting similar measures.

He said city officials in New Carlisle were considering declaring a similar emergency resolution on Monday evening.

As of Monday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus in Clark County, according to Patterson. COVID-19 is a respiratory condition marked by fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure, according to health officials.

However, Patterson said that he believes that there are cases in the community that have not yet been tracked. Testing is available in Clark County, but is only available to those who meet specific criteria, including those who recently travelled overseas or from a known outbreak area within the country and to those who are considered high risk and are hospitalized with significant conditions associated with the virus.

“We were informed that some of our tests are going to have to wait for several days because they are out of the test reagent and they are having to send our test to another laboratory to make that happen,” Patterson said on Monday of one of the commercial laboratories being used.

He said they are working closely with MercyHealth Springfield Regional Medical Center to provide more places, besides the emergency department, to provide testing.

“We know this is going to be a difficult time for everyone. This isn’t for a week or two, this is going to be a long term thing,” Patterson added.

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Those who request emergency services from the city will during this time will be asked screening questions for both the police and fire departments. As a precaution, those asking for police assistance will be asked to meet officers outside if possible, according to officials with the City of Springfield.

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said though first responders are still there to provide daily services, he suggested that residents do not use 911 unless of an emergency. He said that organizations such as the United Way have a 211 line that will help answer questions and offer assistance in other ways that do not require the use of the 911 system.

The Springfield Police Division has also closed its records office to the public and has cancelled all events that involve public interactions. The Springfield Fire Rescue Division has done the same, including suspending fire inspections.

First responders will also be provided with additional protective gear, Heck added.

City employees are to work remotely if possible and local employers are asked to have their employees do the same.

There will be a temporary suspension of all reservations, rentals and program registrations regarding city parks. Housing rehabilitation programs will also be suspended during the state of emergency. The only exception is if there is a safety emergency that can only be addressed with emergency repairs, according to a news release from the City of Springfield.

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