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Health Commissioner in Kent, Ohio Can Now Levy Fines For Breaking Large Gathering Ban

Kent City Council.jpg
City of Kent, Ohio
Kent City Council voted to expand the powers of the city's health commissioner to levy fines against people or businesses breaking the mass gathering ban. From bottom, right: Mayor Jerry Fiala, Council President; Ms. Amy Wilkens, Clerk of Council; Mr. Garret Ferrara, Ward 1; Mr. Jack Amrhein, Ward 2; Mr. John Kuhar, Ward 4; Ms. Heidi Shaffer Bish, Ward 5; Ms. Tracy Wallach, Ward 6; Ms. Gwen Rosenberg, At Large; Mr. Michael DeLeone, At Large; Mr. Roger Sidoti, At Large.

Kent City Council has expanded the ability of the city’s health commissioner to close down large gatherings and levy fines – just as Portage County is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases.

The county was back at level red late last week, and Kent State University has quarantined more than one-hundred students.

At-Large City Councilwoman Gwen Rosenberg lives near campus. She says giving the health department more power is important since there are so many cases among young people, and they could be unknowingly spreading the disease since they tend to be asymptomatic.

Councilwoman Rosenberg on the Kent gathering ordinance.MP3
Councilwoman Rosenberg on the Kent gathering ordinance

“Think about the spread, think about the other people in the community. Our downtown businesses are spiraling right now – it’s awful – [and] it would be catastrophic for us if we were to go to a purple [level] and more drastic measures were put in-place outside of our control that had to shut down our bars or restaurants or fill up our hospital.”

Rosenberg’s colleague, Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish, represents Ward 5, which includes downtown and off-campus housing. She’s observed a number of large gatherings on her street, but says the ordinance is for the health and safety of everyone, not just students.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.