City of Athens, Ohio University Will Not Permit any Fest Events Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Officials in Athens have said they will not allow any “fest” events to take place this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to a joint release from the City of Athens, Athens City-County Health Department, and Ohio University Monday, there is an effort to organize a “fest” event for this weekend.

President Trump announced new coronavirus guidelines Monday, which included the recommendation that all Americans avoid groups of more than 10 people.

Before Trump’s announcement, Ohio announced it would follow CDC guidelines and adjust its mass gathering ban to no gatherings above 50 people.

“As such, the City of Athens will not permit [“fest”] events to take place as long as the Health Director’s order remains in effect,” the release stated. “Any attempt to assemble in violation of the Health Director’s order will result in immediate action by law enforcement, with charges for those in violation potentially including criminal offenses such as misconduct at an emergency, failure to disperse, and riot.”

It was stated that one or more of these charges could also result in suspension or dismissal from any public university in Ohio, as well as possible suspension of state funded financial aid for a period of up to two years.

“We cannot overstate the seriousness of this situation and thus, for the sake of everyone’s health and safety, we strongly discourage any attempt to organize ‘fests’ while the Health Director’s order remains in effect.”

Public Health officials have urged people to stay home in order to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic. Though most people will likely not suffer serious consequences if they contract the novel coronavirus, its quick spread could overwhelm health systems.

“If you think of our health care system as a subway car and it’s rush hour and everybody wants to get on the car once, they start piling up at the door,” says Drew Harris, a population health researcher at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “They pile up on the platform. There’s just not enough room in the car to take care of everybody, to accommodate everybody. That’s the system that is overwhelmed. It just can’t handle it, and people wind up not getting services that they need.”

As of Monday (March 16) at 4:30 p.m., there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Athens County.

The state’s Department of Health at 2 p.m. confirmed that there were 50 confirmed cases in the state of Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.

Ohio’s coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.