UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that lawn care businesses had been deemed non-essential by the Ohio Department of Health, and that they had been ordered to close alongside golf courses. Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller said this in her press briefing Friday, using information she interpreted from a conference call with ODH earlier that day, and the statement was confirmed by Knox Public Health after the press briefing.
However, ODH Press Secretary Melanie Amato told Knox Pages late Friday that when it comes to lawn care businesses, individual companies will be charged with following the state's stay-at-home order (which includes specific health/safety protocol), and counties will be charged with enforcing it. This means lawn care businesses will not be ordered closed, unless it is deemed necessary by local health officials.
It's unclear where lawn care businesses stand in the state's stay-at-home order as of Friday night. Miller said she plans to speak with ODH on Monday to gain further clarification on this issue. Knox Pages will provide updates when they are available.
MOUNT VERNON – Thinking about hitting the links this weekend?
Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller said Friday the Ohio Department of Health has deemed golf courses non-essential, and has ordered them to be closed as a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Clark County Combined Health District determined Wednesday golf courses are non-essential, according to the Springfield News-Sun, and the Ohio Department of Health agreed with the decision on Thursday. ODH officials alerted county health commissioners of this decision on Friday morning during a statewide conference call.
Local law enforcement has been alerted of this change, Miller said, and will be charged with enforcing the order. There are eight golf courses in Knox County, and approximately 800 across the state of Ohio.
It’s unclear when the deadline for closure will be for golf courses. The state’s current stay-at-home order runs through April 6.
Golf courses were not prohibited from operating in Gov. Mike DeWine’s initial stay-at-home order, which went into effect Monday night. However, they also were not listed as essential businesses.
The order, signed by ODH Director Amy Acton, said the following:
“All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, including, but not limited to, locations with amusement rides, carnivals, amusement parks, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children's play centers, playgrounds, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, and country clubs or social clubs shall be closed.”
According to the order, this decision was made to limit social gatherings.
“All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited,” the order said, “except for the limited purposes permitted by this Order.”
The state has defined a wide range of businesses as essential – everything from grocery stores to laundromats. To see the full list, click here.
The Ohio Department of Health issued the following statement Friday, regarding the decision to classify golf courses as non-essential:
“We have said from the beginning that we will not interpret the order for specific businesses,” ODH Press Secretary Melanie Amato said. “However, after review of the issue and the latest information, ODH would advise that the business of operating golf courses and their clubhouses are non-essential under the intent of the director’s stay-at-home order.”
The Clark County Combined Health District offered the following rationale for its decision to order golf courses closed:
“The first question we ask when we are considering these decisions is, ‘Is this business essential to Clark County, Ohio, or the United States to continue operating and providing necessary resources for people?’” Emma Smales, public information officer for the CCCHD, told the News-Sun in an email.
“There will be a few exceptions, but golf courses are not one of them,” she continued. “The spirit of the order is to stay home. We are enforcing the order with that in mind.”
Ohio is not the first state to order golf courses closed amid the coronavirus outbreak. California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin have also done so, according to GolfDigest.com.
After seeing a surge in business near the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, golf courses across the country have begun to shutter due to safety concerns.
Chapel Hill Golf Course, located on Mount Vernon’s south end, shared its reaction to the news in a Facebook post on Friday afternoon.
“Per the request of state and local health agencies, we are temporarily closed at this time,” the post read. “We will keep everyone up to date as this situation continues to evolve. We greatly appreciate your support and look forward to serving you in the near future.”
Apple Valley Golf Course issued a similar statement Friday:
“We have been informed by our local health department that we are to close the course until further notice,” the business said in a Facebook post. “We will post here as soon as the order is lifted and we can get back to playing some golf.”