Health commissioner addresses Troy council

TROY — Approximately 20 supporters showed up in support of Troy Mayor Robin Oda’s stance on mask-wearing — leading to a tense exchange — at the Troy City Council meeting on Monday.

Anti-maskers were often heard jeering or shouting out conflicting opinions as Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes addressed the council on the county’s and city of Troy’s numbers related to coronavirus statistics following council’s business action items. President of Council William Lutz had to call the meeting to order several times as Propes addressed council.

Propes asked the audience who liked to wear a mask and said he wears his “to protect everyone else.”

“You wouldn’t ask a surgeon to perform surgery without a mask. It’s simple respect for people in the community and the people we live with every day. No one likes wearing a mask, but the sooner we do this the sooner we all can be over this. That’s our goal,” Propes said.

Propes noted the holiday gatherings led to a spike in COVID-19 cases and filled hospital ICUs and overflow rooms to near capacity at the turn of the new year — both here and across the nation. The city of Troy’s zip code accounts for 3,538 positive cases out of Miami County’s total 9,489 as of Feb. 1. The city of Troy and the unincorporated adjacent townships are included in the 45373 zip code reporting.

Councilmember Lynne Snee asked about Miami County’s ICU bed capacity. Propes said the number of ICU beds at Upper Valley Medical Center fluctuates due to surge capacity and the average is around 10 beds. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services data, as of Feb. 1, Upper Valley Medical Center has 15 COVID-19 patients and two ICU beds available and is at 84 percent capacity for ICU occupancy. The national average of ICU occupancy is 78 percent and Ohio’s is 72 percent.

“We paid the price — they went through the roof and they created a situation that we are in right now and it’s a little worse actually,” Propes said.

Propes said health officials have been working on COVID-19 protocols — social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands — for nearly a year since the virus was detected in Ohio.

“So I know I’m not going to change anybody’s minds if they aren’t wearing their mask, if they’re not washing their hands or social distancing anymore. You’re not going to listen to me anymore. You’ve made up your mind that you are doing what you want to do,” Propes said. “Thankfully we are moving on to the next phase, which is our vaccination phase.”

Propes said his presentation would focus on the latest work the health department and health officials are doing to administer the COVID-19 vaccines and the different phases.

Propes called the vaccinations “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Propes said in Miami County, 6,593 have been vaccinated to date. Of those vaccinated, 43 percent are those 80 years old or older and 16 percent 70-79 years old.

Propes said he can understand the initial hesitancy of the vaccinations due to the speed of which it was developed. Propes explained how government bureaucracy and “red tape” were not factors in the vaccination development process and funding was widely available to the pharmaceutical manufacturers for the global and national vaccination programs. Propes explained vaccine manufacturers already had “the blueprint” from previous SARS-related viruses and were able to move quickly to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

Councilmember at-large Todd Severt asked Propes about the vaccine adverse event reporting system, which Propes said has been around for four decades. Propes said “no major” reactions have been reported in Miami County from the COVID-19 vaccine. Propes said he himself experienced minor symptoms from his second dose and only mild reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine have been reported locally. Propes said the database is part of the federal government’s reporting system, of which Ohio participates.

As Propes returned to the audience after his presentation he could be heard stating, “Sir, are you threatening me?” before leaving the Bravo Room alongside a Troy Police officer.

No further comments from city administration or staff were made after Propes left. Several audience members shared their personal experiences and why they do not wear masks, with the majority of them being from outside of Troy.

• The city of Troy is revisiting adding a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) to downtown Troy with a city council work session scheduled at 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Hobart Arena’s Bravo Room.

The second proposal of the DORA is 20.6 acres. Public comments will be fielded at this meeting and at the committee meeting held Feb. 22 and at its first reading on March 1. If all legislation follows the proposed timeline, the DORA could be implemented as soon as April 15.

The second proposal narrowed down its hours to noon to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The alcoholic beverages purchased with the official cup can be consumed outdoors within the DORA and only during official DORA hours. The permit must be re-certified every five years, but the city proposes it will reevaluate the DORA at the end of 2021 if accepted.