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Resuming Real Public Meetings

Steubenville City Council members — some of them, anyway — hope to see each other in the flesh for a meeting on June 9. They agreed this week to hold their next regular meeting, scheduled for that date, at the City Building.

No one can say whether the plan will come to fruition. With more than three weeks to go until June 9, much can go wrong with the state’s phase-out of restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

For now, however, businesses have begun to reopen, and the “Stay Safe Ohio” plan seems to be working.

Like other local government bodies, council had been holding teleconferencing meetings while state restrictions were in full force. They seemed to work well — but they were no substitute for face-to-face gatherings.

During council’s meeting Tuesday, City Manager Jim Mavromatis outlined steps being taken to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the City Building. The facility will be professionally sanitized, he noted. As for council chambers, “anyone who comes in the room must wear a mask,” Mavromatis added. No doubt social distancing will be practiced.

Some members of council expressed reservations about the June 9 plan. That is understandable. COVID-19 is a highly communicable virus.

For the foreseeable future, then, council members will have the option of continuing to participate in meetings electronically. We assume that option also will be available to the public.

Simply throwing open the door of council chambers to the public for the June 9 meeting may not be prudent. A large crowd — at least some of the members of which would not be wearing masks — packed into the room could be risky.

At some point, however, a careful phase-in of public access to council meetings needs to begin. The sooner that can be arranged safely — not just in Steubenville but everywhere in the Ohio Valley — the better.

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