News & Politics

Authorities Investigate Illicit Amish Wedding in Sleepy Ohio Hamlet, Population 3,220

The center of Mesopotamia, better known as The Commons, is surrounded by 28 buildings, 21 of them built before the Civil War and included on the National Register of Historic Places. (Jack Pearce via Flickr, CC By-SA 2.0)

In the sleepy town of Mesopotamia, Ohio, population 3,220, health inspectors got wind of an illicit wedding attended by members of the local Amish community and filed a “notice of violation” against the revelers, according to local news reports.

[Kristofer J. Wilster, director of environmental health in Trumbull County], said his report will be turned over to Trumbull County authorities. The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and the county health department investigated the report of a possible wedding celebration involving 300 people, according to a sheriff’s report.

Oh, the humanity.

And how did the authorities find out about this wedding? Why, a snitch, of course, because that’s the America we live in now:

According to a caller Tuesday night to Trumbull County 911, an Amish wedding was scheduled to take place Thursday around noon at the Mesopotamia location, which is commonly used for large gatherings. The caller told 911 that food preparation at that location began Wednesday with about 40 people.

I can imagine how that phone call went: “Uh, hello, I’m calling to report a crime about to be committed by the oldspeakers in the Golden Country, where, as you know, they refuse to install telescreens in their homes. I have received intelligence that the traitors will be committing an unauthorized wedding on Thursday. They should not be difficult to round up, seeing as they rarely venture outside their community and travel by horse and buggy…”

The insular majority-Amish community of Mesopotamia is hardly a hotbed of the COVID-19 virus. The entire county (population just under 200k) which includes Niles (population 18,325) and Warren (population 38,382) has seen only 168 cases of the Chinese Wuhan virus, with 79 hospitalizations, and 8 deaths — that’s about 3% of Ohio’s 253 deaths from the virus. The state health department does not make public community-level data, but there have been no news reports of cases in Mesopotamia.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order stipulates that there can be no gatherings of more than 10 people. Violators can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which could land them 90 days in jail and/or a $750 fine.

The governor’s order makes exceptions for religious gatherings, but it’s not clear whether that exemption would extend to a wedding reception immediately following a ceremony. Presumably, the same people who attended the wedding ceremony attended the no-dancing/no-boozing dinner that followed, but the Trumbull county authorities seem determined to get to the bottom of this and punish potential violators.

The action raises questions about whether small communities like Mesopotamia ought to be permitted to reopen for business, even while areas heavily affected by COVID-19 remain shuttered. Most of Ohio’s COVID-19 cases are concentrated in its most populous cities, including Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Nearly half of Ohio’s counties have no reported deaths related to the virus, and only 9 of the state’s 88 counties have reported more than ten deaths. Mesopotamia’s population density is only 112 people per square mile, compared to Cleveland, with more than 5,000 people per square mile. Wouldn’t it make sense to concentrate pandemic-obliteration efforts and the associated lockdowns in high-population-density hotspots rather than tanking the economies of these tiny villages and communities that operate on a shoestring budget in the best of times?

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