All bars in Ohio are closed, and all restaurants that are open are carryout only because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus. And Gov. Mike DeWine said another key shutdown order will be coming soon.
Gov. Mike DeWine had said he wasn’t going to do a news conference on Sunday unless he had a major announcement. He did.
“I started getting some emails and texts from people in different locations in Ohio, and each one that sent me something – one actually sent a picture – were concerned about the crowded bars in their area,” DeWine said.
DeWine noted he’d signed an order last week banning mass gatherings of over 100 people and that there’s been a lot of emphasis on keeping people from coming in close contact with others.
So DeWine said he was shutting down all bars in Ohio, and effectively making all restaurants carry out only at 9pm Sunday. DeWine says this order will hit small businesses hard and their workers hard, but it’s a matter of life and death.
“We’re very mindful of the economic hurt, the other hurt for individuals who are going to lose their jobs,” DeWine said. “Look, this is brutally tough and my heart goes out to them. But we have to do what we have to do to save their lives, and not just their lives, but the lives of others.”
There are 37 cases of coronavirus confirmed by the state – but Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said Ohio is in what she calls the surge.
“It is getting increasingly hard to give you numbers that are accurate because it’s pouring in so quickly,” Acton said.
She said the illnesses started February 7 – six weeks ago. Acton said that means the number of confirmed cases lags the total in real time. And she said it’s likely in all parts of Ohio, though the confirmed cases come from 11 counties, and that the cities are going take the brunt of the cases of COVID-19.
“As it hits the United States, we likely won’t have one city – we’ll have surges in cities first. We’re going to have multiple Wuhans in this country because it had already spread in our country. It didn’t start at that point of urgent origin. So you’ll see this in places all over the country,” Acton said.
And DeWine and Acton said that’s why bars and restaurants had to be shut down right before St. Patrick’s Day – to break up gatherings and groups.
“When our hospital systems are overwhelmed - that means if you’re having a birth that you’re planning, if you are in a car accident and need your hospital, if you have a stroke or an MI, even if you never get coronavirus, people in this country could die from something other than coronavirus,” Acton said.
With that in mind, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state is also extending unemployment benefits to enable workers without paid leave, and those who lose their jobs if their employers shut down, and extending those benefits to workers who are sick or quarantined without requiring them to be seeking work. And Husted also said the one week waiting period to receive benefits is being waived.
“This is our first step in trying to account for the disruptions in business and we will continue to work with the businesses of Ohio and their leadership to develop services and programs to get us all through this very difficult time,” Husted said.
Husted also said the state will be working to get small businesses and non-profits help – for instance, low-interest loans of up to $2 million from the federal Small Business Administration.
DeWine also has said there’s a chance K-12 students won’t be returning to class before the end of the school year. But he said some things have to be considered before he’d extend that closure date beyond April 3, including required state testing.
“If we don’t do testing this year, the world is certainly not going to come to an end. So we’ll see, we’ll see as we move forward. Let’s stay safe, let’s try to continue to educate the kids, let’s kind of stay focused on the things that we can impact.”
But other orders are coming, said DeWine – most notably, closing daycares.
“It will happen. It will happen. Again, I would plead, if anyone has a child in daycare and you can conceivably figure out a way to take that child out of daycare, please do so,” DeWine said.
And DeWine said there’s a possibility that daycares will have to be set up at hospitals so that health care workers who are needed on the front lines will be able to work.
DeWine also said the state's coronavirus hotline at 833-4-ASK-ODH (833-427-5634) is taking 450 calls an hour. And he said the call center can now take messages and return calls.