Release Date: November 16,2020

Mayor Horrigan Introduces Legislation to Limit Private Gatherings in the City of Akron

Ordinance would be enforced by Summit County Public Health and carry potential civil penalties for property owners or tenants who host large gathering

Akron, Ohio, November 16, 2020 – Today, in an continuing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan submitted legislation to prohibit large private gatherings and require face coverings at small private gatherings in the City of Akron. The limit on private gatherings was recommended by Summit County Public Health due to the ongoing, uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Akron and Summit County, primarily through casual indoor social or family gatherings where masks are not worn. 

The ordinance is being sponsored by Mayor Horrigan and Council President Margo Sommerville.   The legislation will be considered by Council’s Health and Social Service committee today at 2:30 which will be livestreamed at www.akroncitycouncil.org.  If passed, will take effect immediately and will be enforced by Summit County Public Health with support from the Akron Police Department. A copy of the proposed order is available here.  Once passed, Akron’s limit on private gatherings would remain in place for 30 days (until December 16, 2020), unless extended by City Council, in consultation with Summit County Public Health.

Akron’s proposal follows the recent announcement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that hospitals across Ohio are reaching capacity and that the Ohio Department of Health will consider additional business shutdowns if conditions do not improve. 

Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said, “We are experiencing a surge of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The 7-day average for daily cases was 33.7 on October 1st, 97.1 on November 1st, and 245.4 on November 14th.  Now is the time for all residents to wear a mask and not gather with people outside of your household.  Whenever possible, meet outside or in a well ventilated area.  You may save the life of someone you love.”

“As Mayor, my highest responsibility is to protect the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of Akron,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said.  “Limiting private gatherings will help keep Akron businesses open, help get our kids back into the classroom sooner, and most importantly, save lives. Reducing contact with immediate family and friends is an enormous sacrifice for many of us, but we cannot let our guard down even around those we know and love. While it may feel safe, the data shows that COVID is spreading rapidly during family and social gatherings. Holiday celebrations must look different this year. This is the first year that my extended family will not be gathering all together to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I know that it’s the right thing to do to keep my loved ones and our community safe.”

Under Akron’s proposed temporary Private Gathering Ordinance (until December 16th):

Large private gatherings are prohibited:

  • No residential property owner or family in the City shall host more than 6 guests at a gathering
  • Guests include anyone who does not permanently reside in the home, even close family members who reside elsewhere. 

Small private gatherings are permitted with restrictions:

  • For small gatherings with 6 or fewer guests – masks must be worn at all times when a non-resident is in the same room or within six feet, unless an exception applies.
  • Exceptions include: individuals under 10 years old, when actively eating a meal, those who should not wear a mask due to a medical condition, or when outdoors and maintaining 6 feet of social distancing, etc.

Enforcement of the proposed order would be conducted by Summit County Public Health (SCPH) with support from the Akron Police Department.  Reports of in-progress large private gatherings should be made to the Akron Police Department non-emergency line at 330-375-2181. Reports of previously held large private gatherings, or other COVID-related complaints, can be made to the Summit County Public Health hotline at 330-926-5795 or online at https://www.scph.org/report-non-essential-businesses-or-operations. Property owners or occupants that fail to enforce the requirements of the ordinance and host large gatherings could face a potential civil penalty of $250.

“Enforcement will focus first on voluntary compliance. Our goal is not to punish, but to educate residents and eliminate the large social gatherings that are allowing COVID-19 to spread uncontrolled within our community,” Mayor Horrigan added.  “Because the reality is that if we don’t take drastic action now, more of our neighbors and loved ones will die, our hospitals will be overrun, and our restaurants, schools, and businesses will suffer from additional shutdowns.” 

The City has received support from business and community leaders, including the chief executives of all three Akron hospital systems, who will be joining Mayor Horrigan when the legislation is presented to the Health and Social Services committee this afternoon.

Tod Bown, Managing Director of External Affairs and Government Relations for Ohio Restaurant Association added the Association’s support, adding “The Ohio Restaurant Association supports Mayor Horrigan as he tries to get at the root cause of the fall COVID-19 surge. Thousands of Akron restaurants and small businesses are compliant and vigilant about mask wearing.  They should not be punished because we as individuals aren't doing what we need to do in our own homes. Our members and their employees cannot afford another shut down, but if we do not get back control of the virus, the state of Ohio has threatened to do just that."