Despite Reopenings, COVID-19 Pandemic Is Not Over, Cleveland Mayor Says

Cleveland police officers wear masks at a recent police academy graduation ceremony.
Cleveland police officers wear masks at a recent police academy graduation ceremony. [City of Cleveland]

As Ohio lifts coronavirus restrictions on businesses, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson urged residents to continue taking precautions against the spread of the virus.

Jackson said Gov. Mike DeWine had taken a “more moderate approach” in pulling back on business shutdowns. But the pandemic is not over yet, the mayor told callers on a telephone town hall with U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge Thursday evening.

“Just because they’re allowing people to move around, it’s not over with,” Jackson said. “Stay at home. If you have to go out, wear a mask, keep your social distance and wash your hands.”

Jackson and Fudge fielded questions from residents for an hour, touching on testing, contact tracing COVID-19 cases, facemasks and assistance for government and businesses.

Although many city businesses will be able to serve customers again in May under new state guidelines, Jackson said he is not yet ready to fully reopen recreation centers and City Hall to the public.

“I have to see what’s going to happen when this gradual reopening does occur,” he said. “Are we exacerbating the problem? And if we are, then we may have to be more restrictive in what we do, simply because we can’t put people at risk.”

A few callers, including an elderly man and a woman who said she worked in healthcare, voiced concern about those who don’t wear masks in public places.  

“I’m a 77-year-old black man in the city of Cleveland, born and raised here,” one caller, who was identified himself as Andrew, told Jackson and Fudge. “And I’m scared about the young people not wearing the masks and stuff, and I wish we could get more education going for, especially the young people.”

Jackson said he tells his own grandchildren to wear masks.

Earlier this week, Jackson’s administration released its “ReStart CLE” plan, which called on residents to “double down” on coronavirus precautions as businesses reopen. The plan also outlined the city’s $29 million aid package for businesses, renters and citizens’ basic needs.

Cleveland is making the money available as it girds for major revenue declines this year. Although the federal CARES Act provided funding for state and local pandemic response, local leaders say the funds don’t help them plug budget holes punched open by business shutdowns.

A new round of federal funding for local governments is in the works, Fudge said.

“You can’t get revenue if people are not coming out and people are not spending,” she said. “And so it’s a major problem, we know that it is, and we believe that we will be more successful in this next package than we were in the last.”

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