City of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther has commended the city residents for stepping up in combating the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke on the city’s efforts to share information about COVID-19 to everyone in the community, ease the burdens of those who have been economically displaced and the beginning to transition to reopen, with health and wellness as a top concern.
We’ve been really proud of the work that has been done by Dr. Mysheika Roberts at the public health and her team in the public health department has been great. We are very lucky to have her in her role during this time.
What we tried to do from the very beginning was working with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Changing the conduct of the Arnold festival at that time was the important decision we had to make.
Even when we didn’t have a confirmed case here in Ohio, we had a sense of what was going to be happening.
It was really Dr Amy Acton at the state level and Dr. Mysheika Roberts here locally that helped the governor and I to understand that what we couldn’t see yet would become the crisis that we are in now.
There are couple of things that most and health experts said will really help us slow this spread in central Ohio and Ohio.
First of all was dramatically changing the Arnold competition that was only two ticketed events where spectators could come in for a shorter period of time, not all days or four days that they do traditionally.
The other bold decision was that of the President of Ohio State University telling the students not to return to the campus after the break. We are one of the first states that cancelled school.
These things have been a game changer and I continue to praise the Governor’s leadership, his willingness to follow the science and follow the advice of health care experts. He has continued to do that.
What we are doing now is getting good information out to the new American community. The community is absolutely critical to our entrepreneurship, our small business community and they are very important to quality of life in the city.
Our public health department has translated a lot of information and materials into many different languages so that we can reach out to our entire community. These materials have been distributed in print, hard copies and online.
It has been translated into Spanish, Somali, Nepali, French, Chinese, Arabic and Korean. That has helped us reached so many of our neighbors. Being able to read something in your own language, especially with such a critical health information is helping us to reach more folks with good information and in a timely way.
It is so important in our work and kind of slowing the spread and flattening the curves, so we don’t overwhelm our health system. It is about educating and empowering our residents.
We are proud of how we’ve coordinated with dozens of communities in engagement efforts and partnership with other city agencies including Columbus Public Health, Recreation and Parks and departments of public service and safety to ensure that new American community receives service and accurate information on Covid19.
We’ve been working with internal and external partners including Columbus City Schools and ensuring that our residents are well informed and that they have opportunities for the services they need during the challenges of Covid19.
There are three phases to this, health, human service and economic recovery. In the human crisis, there are a lot of people in our community right now that are hurting. They lost their jobs, they are unemployed and they haven’t received the stimulus checks or payment checks from the federal government. They are still waiting for their paycheck protection program and the congress is in the process of re-appropriating fund for that. The three phases are happening at the same time.
What we want to focus on with respect to the human service crisis are the basic needs like food, shelter, and really trying to make sure that we help people survive. Protect them during the health crisis., help them survive the human service crisis and be prepared for a dynamic, inclusive, equitable and economic recovery. The new American community is absolutely critical of all three of the phases of the crisis.
We are doing a number of different things, I just spoke with development director, Mike Stevens, not only that we will continue to use a lot of minorities and female owned businesses to do the work in our diversity and inclusion offices during this time, a number of our certified businesses are minority and female owned businesses, many of whom are new American owned. We are trying to use them during this crisis for our emergency response to the health crisis.
We are also organizing a call and expanding virtual access to great programs and services offered in partnership with Google and others. The director of diversity is hosting a variety of things in partnership with our city-wide web trainers and partnering with Google and other folks around entrepreneurship start ups and the new American community will be part of that. I think there are a lot of new Americans who may or may not have been interacting with the federal government before, certainly have not heard of the Small Business Administration, SBA program.
There is a kind of webinar for small and minority emerging companies on how to access their paycheck protection program. We will have some of the larger banks that help with SBA lending that will be part of that. We are contracting with Columbus Urban League to help minority and emerging companies take advantage of that. We want to ensure that our local companies are taking advantage of that and not just the larger companies. That money belongs to the small companies’ people.
The big city mayors in Ohio have had this incredible partnership with the Governor Mike DeWine. It’s been a great partnership. We are not really fixated on date of reopening the cities. We are trying to have our reopening focused on science and what best practices from our health care experts and public health expertise standpoint. We are working very closely with the government on that and are making progress on that.
We sent a list of five things that we thought very important. The first is flexibility for testing. We know that our hospitals have capacity to test more but the current testing guidance is far too restrictive. We know that our health system could provide double, triple or quadruple of the number of tests they are providing today.
If the state would allow us test anyone who is symptomatic it will loosen up the restrictions. We need more swabs and kits for testing that is the second thing we asked for.
We asked for the state to require that community members wear a mask outside their home and in public to help continue to slow down the spread among people in the community.
The fourth thing we asked is to provide clear guidance on mass gathering to larger groups for the next three to six months so that we have consistency and clarity around the state.
Our nursing homes are the most vulnerable. The greatest outbreak and devastation have been in the nursing homes. We want clear guidance and support from the state to manage, test, contain and mitigate covid19. We are making progress on that.
We know that the governor will share his kind of reopening or transition of businesses and the economy in the community on Friday (April 24). His plan is for that phasing in and transition to happen very slowly. There will be very clear direction that if you are a business that can be opened how you have to operate in order to stay in business.
This is something that we have been focusing on quite for a while. Our equity agenda at the state of the city back in February highlighted this and I asked Dr Roberts to study racism a public health crisis. She has launched the new center of public health department. It is really delving into how racism can have impact on African Americans and new Americans regardless of their background and nationality during the years they came into the United States.
I also know that covid19 disproportionately affected African Americans here and around the country and also new Americans. Many new Americans are in the frontline service-oriented jobs, whether they are in health care, grocery stores and other essential services.
New Americans continue to go to work sometimes without protection that they need by exposing themselves and their families to covid19. Twenty percent of confirmed cases we have here are health care workers. Not just doctors and nurses they are those that take care of the cleaning and other services.
The governor will outline that on Friday. He will outline all the best practices and the rules on how you operate to stay in business. There may be very well be a number of businesses that cannot be reopened because we are not sure how that will be done safely like how you practice social distancing and how you can do things. There will be some kind of businesses that would be very difficult for them to reopen at least for now.
That is why I keep on talking about that this is a transitional period. It is an evolution. We will always stop and adjust quickly. We will continue to work with the governor on this.
Such an important part of our equity agenda is expanding health care, that people are going to the right place for health care. We will do our very best to slow down the spread of covid19. I have never been more proud about our community. The way the community has stepped up has been very consistent.
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