PAULDING, Ohio (WFFT) - A group of 14 people will make up Paulding County's Coronavirus Defense Team. Those from public health, local schools, the mayor's office, and the emergency management agency are coming together with the goal to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Bill Edwards, Emergency Coordinator with the Paulding County Health Department says over time, people became COVID-fatigued and have only recently had residents been more strict about masking up.
"When the mask order was first in effect, we saw a great compliance, and then the county citizens kind of got weary and started wearing the masks less and less," Edwards explained. "When we reached the level 3 red alert level, the next day I saw a lot more compliance with the mask-wearing, which is great."
That's the message they want to encourage. Wear masks, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene.
The group will work with local schools, businesses, and churches to help with slowing the spread and Paulding County EMA Director Edward Bohn wants to make the group's intent very clear, the task force is not set up to take away individuals' rights or to interfere with someone's religious beliefs.
Bohn said, "We have to be more cognizant of what is going on and that, certainly, gathering of people and making sure if they are, they're wearing masks, social distancing, and have the proper sanitizing issues in hand."
The county has seen cases rise by 500% over the last month according to Bohn and Paulding County Hospital CEO Ron Goedde says 50% of patients they see on a daily basis are because of COVID-19
"The hospital is busier, we're using more PPE than ever. The EMA department has been helping us a lot to get the equipment we need to care for our patients, but if we don't get this a little bit under control right now, the resources will be spread very thin going forward here," Goedde explained.
Bohn believes people didn't know what to believe as the recent election has sent different messages regarding COVID-19.
Their goal is to have clear messages going forward, and with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, Edwards wants their message to be "keep your crew to a few."
This group will not be in charge of going around to businesses in Paulding County to enforce the mask mandate or the curfew, that job is left up to the Ohio Department of Health (1-833-4-ASK-ODH) and the Bureau of Worker's Compensation.
Bohn says the Defense Team's goal is simply to come up with ideas with local leaders to slow the spread of COVID-19.