By SCOTT COTTOS
It’s not as though an officer’s necessarily going to track you down and arrest you.
But Fostoria Police Chief Keith Loreno would like to discourage you from being a scofflaw in regard to Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohioans are supposed to stay at home if at all possible in an effort to stem the spread of the highly contagious and sometimes-deadly virus, and gatherings of a number people are largely discouraged.
“Unfortunately, there are individuals and groups who are not heeding it and they continue to gather together and they’re not honoring the social distancing, which, obviously, is putting everyone at risk,” Loreno said.
“Even when they’re outside — which, without question, is encouraged, but it’s to keep it in small groups and, certainly, continue the social distancing — we’re still seeing people gathering together at, maybe, different events or different places and they’re in larger groups, which, obviously, is not for the best of anyone.”
DeWine has said violating the order is punishable up to the level of a second-degree misdemeanor. But Loreno said he would hope it wouldn’t come to that locally.
“First of all, we’re not out looking for it,” he said. “We are certainly honoring the constitution of this country, so if anyone thinks we’re out looking for it, I can assure you we are not. If we were to come across it, though, we certainly would just simply advise people and ask them if they’re aware of the order. But Fostoria police takes pride. We’re not going to play the heavy-handed game. We don’t believe that is necessary. I guess we would simply ask people to heed the warnings that are already present by the governor and the director of health.”
In regard to the possibility of citing someone, Loreno said: “According to the law, we can. But the spirit of that law is to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep people informed. The spirit of that law is not to charge people or arrest people for those violations.”
As to what might prompt action more serious than a warning, Loreno said he could not answer specifically.
“We would have to deal with it as it comes along,” he said. “This is an unprecedented situation. There’s nothing cut in stone on this.”
Loreno said he realizes the situation is making people restless, but they should try to make the best of it.
“People are going stir crazy, and as the weather gets better, (being restless) is certainly going to be worse,” he said. “We’re seeing people out walking their dogs. They’re getting out to the reservoirs and starting to walk around, and that is absolutely fantastic. Obviously, that’s got to be better for your health.
“My best advice is, just follow the directives that are being given out by the state department of health and the governor’s office. Stay home. Keep that social distancing. Don’t look at this as any joke of any nature. This is unprecedented. This is nothing I’ve ever experienced in my career. There’s no manual we can go look at, something similar in nature that we can follow the guidance of. A lot of these decisions are being made on the fly with the intel we’re receiving.
“You know what? Go home and enjoy your family. I would say don’t drink too much alcohol. And, just as a little levity, play lots of games. Get to know your family again. I mean, with social media and computers and phones and everything (as distractions) — maybe reconnect with your family on that face-to-face basis.”
But dangers of people being in close quarters for lengthy periods of time are conflict and the potential for domestic violence.
“We’re already seeing a little bit of that — not to that physical level, but we have had several situations where people have gotten into verbal arguments and things of that nature where we’ve had to go and deal with it,” Loreno said. “We have seen just a slight increase in that, and I think a little bit of that is just people are anxious right now — the unknown future of how long this is going to last and things like that, and that adds to the stresses.”
The chief said warmer weather will help in that regard.
“The biggest thing is, hopefully we get some more weather breaks and (people can) get outside,” he said. “I mean, throw a football. Throw a baseball. Go for a walk. There are lots of places around this community where you can go. Just get out and do some different things. Obviously, don’t get together and go to places where there would be a lack of social distancing, but just go out and see things.
“Go out back and play games. Go out and walk Fido. Dogs are probably tired of going for so many walks. They’re used to one walk a day and some people are probably walking them four or five times a day and they’re all exhausted,” he joked.
“You’re just going to have to find some things. You know, you can have movie night at your house. Put a movie on TV, get some popcorn like you would at a theater, grab some drinks and do something like that as a family.
“It’s a horrible situation, but make something really good out of it. I can tell you, at home, we got out some board games. We hadn’t played board games in years. Of course, we played Aggravation, and the name certainly fits the game. And after playing that, I knew it would be insane to pull out the Monopoly board.
“There’s a lot of stuff like that you can do. You can get on the phone and call people you haven’t seen in a while. I mean, reconnect. Everybody has somebody where they think, ‘Oh, I ought to call that person sometime,’ and your life gets so busy that you don’t do it.