By Ris Twigg
After cancelling its March 23 Obetz Village Council meeting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, village officials hosted a virtual council meeting on April 13 to discuss a series of actions and goals for getting through the pandemic.
Obetz closed many of its facilities, such as gymnasiums, on March 13, and Governor Mike DeWine closed all Ohio schools the following day. Soon after, village officials placed restrictions on the number of staff working in the same building at the same time to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. And on March 24, Mayor Angie Kirk declared a state of emergency for the village.
“Our staff and employees are doing the best job they can to make sure they keep you protected,” said Kirk. “This is a time for us all to make sure that we’re doing our part so these cases don’t continue to grow here.”
Declaring a state of emergency in Obetz makes the village eligible for $50,000 of relief funds set aside for emergency purchases related to the coronavirus, such as tents for makeshift hospitals or keeping residents informed.
“It cuts down the red tape to make sure we can deliver whatever service we need as quickly as possible,” Rod Davisson, village administrator, said.
Council’s unanimously passed an emergency declaration that prevents utility companies from shutting off residents’ utilities during the coronavirus outbreak and gives the mayor more authority.
Other essential services are still operating with extra precautions. Senior transportation is still offered, groceries are delivered to seniors via a partnership with the fire department, and the Obetz food bank continues to operate during this time.
Kirk announced a series of goals — called “zer0betz Goals 2020” — focused on reducing or eliminating the spread of COVID-19 cases, maintaining essential residential services, protecting vulnerable residents, getting Obetz back in business safely, and making sure there are zero deaths from COVID-19 in Obetz.
“We do have two reported cases in the village of Obetz that were reported to us by the Franklin County Health Department,” Kirk said. “If you are displaying symptoms of this, please make sure that you contact your doctor, self-quarantine. This is a time for us all to make sure we’re doing our part to make sure these cases don’t grow here. Our ultimate goal is to make sure we don’t lose anyone here in the village of Obetz and whatever we have to do as your council, as elected officials, as staff, we will do.”
To keep residents as informed as possible during the outbreak, Mike Corbitt, village engineer, created a website that gathers all of the latest coronavirus information in one place. The website can be accessed at village-of-obetz-coronavirus-response-obetz.hub.arcgis.com/.
Staff are working on sending a paper mailer to households in case some residents don’t have access to the website.
During the virtual meeting, residents had the opportunity to ask questions about the village’s response. Someone anonymously asked about ways Obetz residents could to help their community.
Kirk said folks who want to join a “community COVID action group” to support other Obetz residents should email her at email@example.com.
The emergency measures enacted by Kirk and council are set to expire on June 1. Although the new policies have an expiration date, Davisson said he thinks the strategy for opening the village back up will be more gradual.
“We are keenly aware that if those measures are loosened too quickly, you can have a rebound set of cases. The odds are high that could happen anyway,” he said. “Everyday is a new announcement you have to evaluate. If you screw up, you could get someone sick or killed. It’s a scary time.”