Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, Shawnee County Health Officer, Issues a Statement Regarding Changes to Retail Restrictions 

Dr. Gianfranco Pezzino, Shawnee County Health Officer, has released the attached Media Statement in response to a significant number of inquiries directed to the Shawnee County Health Department and Shawnee County COVID-19 Response Team regarding the decision to change some retail business restrictions to recommendations. 

“Our team has received many inquiries and voiced concerns regarding the decision to remove the Retail Business restrictions and make recommendations. I will provide a short review of the facts and what has led me to make the decision and what I hope the community response will be. 

In assessing our current situation, I took these things into consideration: 

  • General retail businesses have a lower risk of transmission, given the transient nature of contact between workers and customers. Additionally, many large businesses are following corporate guidance. 
  • The current epidemiology of the infection in Shawnee County suggests that at this time the risk of transmission is higher in certain settings and occupations, and our focus will concentrate on those high- risk situations. 
  • Workers in sectors considered at high risk of transmission are still required to wear masks. This includes workers who have contact with customers in restaurants, bars, night clubs, personal services (salons, barbershops, pet grooming, tattoo parlors, etc.), entertainment venues (movie theatres, concert venues, bowling alleys, etc.), and gyms and fitness centers. The change is only for retail businesses. 
  • There is a desire in some segments of the community to return to a lifestyle that is closer to what people were experiencing before the pandemic. We need to respect that desire while keeping reasonable public health protection measures in place, as prompted by the specific, local situation. 

As the health officer for our county, I recommended this decision and I am comfortable with it. The decision is in line with the current status of the pandemic in our county. If I thought that the decision could result in serious public health consequences, I would never have put it forward to the Shawnee County Board of Health. 

It is my job as the Public Health Officer to make changes to protect the public when I see the potential for a widespread health issue. I will issue orders to provide that safety in areas where I believe it is most needed. This is done through a comprehensive risk assessment, the Shawnee County Board of Health processes, and enforceable measures. With the Health Department team and partners, I will continue to lead with our overall safety being paramount in any of my decisions. 

Every time we get out of our house, we are taking a small (but not zero) risk of being infected with the virus. While public health restrictions can reduce that risk, ultimately it is up to each of us to decide how much risk we are comfortable taking. This is the personal risk assessment we consistently advise people to do every time they go out. 

If you do not feel comfortable going into a business, you should not go into that business. If you feel strongly that a business can do something better to make your experience safer, you should let that business know. They have the power to change things in their business to meet the customers’ concerns. Give them the opportunity to best serve you as a customer.”