Our region has received a couple of big reminders about how quickly things can change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It wasn’t that long ago that it appeared that groups throughout the Tri-State Area had figured out a way to be able to hold scaled-down versions of popular summer events, including outdoor concerts.
That changed quickly, and on Monday organizers of the Steubenville concert series announced that Sunday’s gospel event at the Berkman Amphitheater would be the last of the already shortened season. And then on Tuesday, the Toronto Coalition for Revitalization announced that its concert series, which opened on July 8, would not go forward.
Those decisions came as a result of an increase in reported cases of the coronavirus in Jefferson, Brooke and Hancock counties.
Jerry Barilla, who does double duty as Steubenville’s mayor and as president of Historic Fort Steuben, and Jon Greiner, who helped to coordinate the Toronto series, agreed that canceling their concerts was the right thing to do, adding they were disappointed that the decision had to be made.
They made the right call, especially when, as Greiner pointed out, the events apparently were in violation of Ohio Health Department guidelines. Jefferson County Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos appeared to confirm that when she said most public gatherings of more than 10 people, with some exceptions, were prohibited. The health board has said it will not make recommendations about public events, referring organizers instead to the state health department for guidance.
More than just the concerts have been canceled during the last few days. For example, officials at Brooke High School canceled their planned outdoor graduation ceremony that had been scheduled for July 23. The annual Fall Bash fundraiser held by the Chester Volunteer Fire Department at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort also was canceled, as was this year’s running of the West Virginia Derby. Officials in Wellsburg have called to again limit public access to City Hall.
We can expect to see more changes that will have an impact across the region as Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Jim Justice of West Virginia and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania continue to seek ways to limit outbreaks that are popping up in various parts of their states.
COVID-19 remains a difficult virus to contend with, as we have seen this week. It means area residents need to remain vigilant, and that includes practicing social distancing, using hand sanitizer and wearing masks.