County investigates COVID-19 cases related to parties

By Blake Boyd

The Butler County General Health District announced an investigation of COVID-19 cases related to off-campus social gatherings of Miami University students.

According to a press release sent May 23, the health district is contacting individuals who attended the events to ask them to isolate for 14 days. The report said the health district is collaborating with Miami University to trace students who may have been exposed.

The gatherings occurred between May 8 and May 16, when some students came back to town to pack up their apartments and with others in town to celebrate graduation. Miami held virtual graduation ceremonies May 16 and May 17.

Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening said the City of Oxford Police Department is focused on ensuring Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders and guidelines for COVID-19 are followed by educating people who are in violation of social distancing and disbanding gatherings.

“(Over the last few weeks) people called us all the time (to report student gatherings),” Fening said. “…We got sent to a lot of them. Whether they were in violation or not was a totally different story, but we did get sent to a lot… After talking with the residents, oftentimes we figured out that either they were (all) residents or there wasn’t the number of people for them to be in violation, but if they were, we dispersed it.”

Under current rules, people outside of groups living together, should not gather in groups of more than 10 persons. When outside the home, non-family groups are encouraged to maintain a distance of at least six feet between people.

Fening said that because orders have changed frequently there’s been a lack of clarity on social distancing guidelines. “Every week is kind of unknown territory,” she said. Fening added that she’s hopeful there will be more clarity after the governor’s current set of social distancing guidelines expire May 29, with more information possibly leading to more specific rules that can be used to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene emphasized the importance of following DeWine’s orders, especially as the city looks to reopen its economy. Greene said both residents and business owners are being encouraged to follow sanitation and social distancing guidelines, and that, so far, she’s been impressed with local businesses’ precautions and compliance with rules.

Butler County has more than 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 confirmed deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University. The U.S. eclipsed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths this week.

Anyone with questions about COVD-19 symptoms or guidelines can contact the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-427-5634, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. or visit the county health site, or the state site.