Oxford community adjusts to pandemic

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 Parks and walking paths remain open as of now, but playground areas such as this one in Oxford Community Park are closed and unused because of concerns over the virus. Photo by Susan Coffin.

By Halie Barger and Casey Brosokas

COVID-19 has disrupted the way the City of Oxford operates. Non-essential city employees have been sent to work remotely. While the area’s trails and Oxford Community Park remain open as of today, dog parks and playground equipment in the park are shut down.

Playgrounds in all city parks have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus under state orders. Photo by Susan Coffin.

As of Thursday, Ohio had 2,902 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but that number is rapidly growing, according to the Ohio Department of Health. There were 260 confirmed ICU cases, and 802 hospitalizations in the state related to COVID-19.

The death toll in Ohio had reached 81 on Thursday, and that number is being updated daily.

Butler County’s confirmed cases have reached 49 with 16 hospitalizations and one death, as of Thursday evening.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 1.

You can still walk the public paths and trails in and around Oxford, but as this sign warns, you should stay at least six feet away from other hikers. Photo by Susan Coffin.

All non-essential employees at Miami, including virtually the entire faculty are working remotely, and all classes are being taught online. The 2020 commencement ceremony previously set for May 16 was cancelled and is tentatively re-scheduled for the weekend of September 11. Miami University President Gregory Crawford still plans to have a virtual recognition for the graduates on May 16.

Talawanda Schools have also moved to remote learning. Meals are being delivered by the district for those in need. The school board will meet virtually to maintain social distance, and to respect the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. These meetings will be live streamed, and will allow public participation.

Oxford City Council also adopted a resolution at their meeting on March 17 to hold its meetings virtually, as well. The meetings can be viewed online and citizens can ask questions during the sessions, but City buildings are now closed to the general public.

But while most people in town sit sheltered in their homes, venturing out only to stretch their legs or make quick trips to the grocery, pharmacy or one of the other few critical businesses allowed to remain open, the Oxford community has come together to find solutions to boredom and feelings of isolation.

Enjoy Oxford Director, Kim Daggy, said that the organization, with all its employees working from home, is seeking ways that local residents can enjoy life in Oxford from the safety of their homes. We also plan to reach out to individual businesses for some engaging social media content like DIY videos,” Daggy said.

Daggy said that the use of social media has allowed city leaders to see how people are spending their days.

“Through engagement on social media we’ve learned that people are taking lots of walks around neighborhoods,” Daggy said. The city is encouraging people to utilize trails while remaining a safe distance from each other. A safe distance, according to the Ohio Department of Health, is at least six feet.  

“We’ve also put out a blog post encouraging people to take advantage of those natural areas, as well as the paved trail at the community park and respecting physical distancing,” Daggy said.

The Centers for Disease Control and the White House recommend avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. The Ohio Department of Health recommends avoiding gathering with people outside of your own household unless you are an essential employee at an essential business.

According to Jessica Greene, Oxford assistant city manager, the community has been rallying to show solidarity.

“I think there have been some really great things,” Greene said. “I’ve seen people doing shamrock hunts in windows,” she said, referring to people who place paper cutouts of shamrocks in their windows for children to look for while out on walks. Walks that include an immediate family member are permitted.

Chalk diagrams and hopscotch obstacle zones have been seen on stretches of local sidewalks to offer fun things for kids to do while out on walks. Greene said there are a lot of people coming together to donate food, money, and other necessities.

“Everyone’s thinking about who’s going to be impacted,” Greene said. “I’ve witnessed a lot of positive outpouring from the community, and I’m actually quite impressed with it.”

Meanwhile the fire department updated the community on Facebook with a picture of the EMS crews’ new protective gear: gowns, gloves, masks and protective eyewear. They also changed their marquee outside the fire station to say “Better days are ahead.”  

Oxford Fire Department personnel are responding to calls in personal protection gear that now includes gowns, gloves and masks, as shown in this picture posted by the department on Facebook this week.

Looking ahead, Enjoy Oxford is continuing to plan summer events with caution to the quickly-changing COVID-19 situation.

At this time, that means “full steam ahead with our Uptown Concert Series on Thursday evenings this summer,” Daggy said.  

According to Daggy, Enjoy Oxford is partnering with the Parks and Recreation department for a campaign titled “Unwind the Grind.” This invites people to spend the day in Oxford visiting the trails, shopping, swimming at the aquatic center, and more. They are also working with the city to brainstorm ideas to get more families uptown. According to Daggy, plans for the Red Brick Porsche Car Show are still underway for August.

“We plan to turn this into a multi-day event by showcasing some Porsches during the Uptown Music Concert, organizing social activities on Friday and the full show on Saturday August 8,” Daggy said.

As of now, the Oxford Aquatic Center is still opening May 23, according to Greene. But that could change if the governor extends the stay-at-home orders beyond the end of April.