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Salem warns businesses for violating Ohio COVID guidelines

SALEM — At least three city businesses have received warnings from the Salem City Health District for having too many people not seated or violating state guidelines for mass gatherings during the pandemic.

City Health Commissioner Alanna Stainbrook updated health board members about coronavirus-related complaints during their Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

The discussion came up while reviewing the written report of Alan Masters, who oversees the environmental department and is responsible for investigating calls about alleged violations of COVID-19 regulations, including the wearing of masks and the guidance against mass gatherings.

Stainbrook said it’s not something they go looking for, but in answer to someone calling. Most of the calls have to do with either employees or patrons not wearing facial coverings, which is something the governor has made mandatory with some exceptions. “We go out to the businesses and check to see what’s going on,” she said.

A warning comes if the business has committed the same violation more than a few times. She didn’t name the specific businesses who received warnings.

The pandemic has caused the cancellation of many fairs and festivals throughout the area, with food trucks finding new ways to get customers by setting up on street corners or in the parking lot of businesses. Food truck operations secure food service permits through the health department, but if they’re in Salem, they also have to secure a zoning permit and a few were caught without them.

Mayor John Berlin, who serves as president of the board by virtue of his position as mayor, said some of the businesses may not realize they need the city zoning permit in addition to their food service permit.

He said he’s sympathetic to the food trucks who don’t have the events to go to this year, saying the city’s just concerned that they have the proper documentation and a way to get rid of wastewater.

Stainbrook reported the city had 18 positive COVID-19 cases last month and the majority were community spread cases. She said what she’s seeing now is that when one person in a family gets it, then the whole family gets it. There had been no deaths and she said the cases in long-term care facilities had settled down.

The board met briefly in executive session for personnel. When the members emerged, they agreed to explore a contract with Pastor Hery Salamanca as an interpreter who could help with contact tracing when people in the Hispanic community need to be contacted about a possible exposure to COVID-19.

The board also agreed to increase the salary for Masters to $19 per hour the first month after the Ohio Department of Health certifies him as a registered sanitarian. Masters is currently working as a sanitarian in training, but has completed all the training and now is just waiting for ODH approval.

The board gave permission for Stainbrook to spend up to $3,700 to buy a new freezer and a new refrigerator, both for storing vaccines. She said they really need the freezer because they’ve had some problems with the current freezer which needs defrosted frequently.

Staff member Lynle Hayes reported there will be a slight increase in the food service fees for next year based on the cost methodology relating to time spent by staff members on food service work. A resolution will be prepared for a first reading next month for the new fees.

Stainbrook also introduced new public health nurse Kristin Toy to the board.

The next meeting of the board will be 2 p.m. Sept. 16.

mgreier@att.net

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