Cuyahoga County's COVID-19 Hotline Fields Concerns From Workers, Businesses

Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan speaking at media briefing [CCHB]
Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan spoke at a Wednesday morning media briefing. [CCHB]
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The Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s coronavirus phone line is being flooded with questions about whether a business or a specific job is essential, said Health Commissioner Terry Allan during a media briefing on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the health board fielded 500 calls specifically on this topic from the public, according to Allan.

As employees and business owners try to put into action Gov. Mike DeWine’s sweeping stay at home order, there is still some confusion about which jobs should be considered essential, and which exempt from the order. 

“Many of the calls were from employees who were upset that their employer had determined that their function or service was considered to be essential as defined by the order,” said Allan.

The order, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, prohibits Ohio residents from leaving their homes, and Ohio businesses from operating, for all but essential reasons.

Allan urged business owners to take the time to explain to employees why the company or their particular job is essential, so that people won’t feel compelled to call the county phone line seeking answers.

There were also calls from business owners seeking help in interpreting the intent of the governor’s order, he said. Allan urged business owners to err on the side of caution and to think about the minimum number of employees needed at their workplace.

“Regardless of whether the business is essential or not, if work can be done from home then have it done from home. Stop people from congregating together and creating chains of transmission in the community,” said Allan.

County officials said that anyone who feels they are being asked to work in unsafe or improper conditions can contact the health department at 216-201-2000 between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.

Officials are urging the public to keep the county’s other help line free to take calls from people who have questions about health issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. The help line number is 1-855-711-3035.

County officials also addressed a concern from news media organizations who are seeking the release of more information about the situation in local hospitals as local cases of COVID-19 continue to increase.

The health board is working to obtain more information about the number of hospital beds and ventilators available in area hospitals, said Dr. Heidi Gullett, the county's medical director. Information is also being gathered about the number of local health care providers who have tested positive for the virus, she said.

“I feel like our community has been hit with this in a really profound way," said Gullett.

“There is an immense amount of data and we can present a lot of different angles, and I’m trying to present what is most useful to our community,” she said.

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