Ohio Announces Sweeping Changes To Deal With Coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine is closing K-12 schools, banning many large public events and stopping most visits at the state's nursing homes as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the spread of coronavirus.

All of Ohio’s K-12 schools will be closing at the end of the day Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak in Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine says students will go on a three-week spring break and won’t return until April 3 at the earliest. He says kids aren’t as affected but can be carriers of the illness so keeping them out of school buildings will lower the transmission rate.

“Look, we are going to get through this. We’ve got to go through this gauntlet. We’ve got to run this gauntlet. And we’ve got to get through this gauntlet without losing too many of us," DeWine says.

Schools will be open for voting Tuesday, and DeWine says this won’t apply to preschools and day cares. But he’s urging businesses to allow their employees to have flexibility to work from home to accommodate working parents. DeWine says many on his staff and in state government will also be working from home as much as possible. 

Many of the state's colleges have already made plans to teach classes online for the rest of this month. 

And Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered a ban on visitors at Ohio nursing homes and in the state’s psychiatric hospitals.

DeWine says nursing homes requested the ban because of the vulnerability of elderly people and those with compromised immune systems to COVID-19.

“No one knows the safety of their patients better than the nursing homes themselves," Dewine said.

He added: "This will not last forever. This is temporary. Everything we’re doing is temporary. We’ll get back to normal in Ohio. It’s not going to be done overnight, but we will.”

Visitors are also banned at the state’s six psychiatric hospitals, and those who have to come into those facilities or nursing homes will be screened.

Earlier this week, 128 polling places that were in nursing homes and senior living facilities were ordered to be moved for Tuesday’s presidential primary, with provisions being made for residents who want to vote.

DeWine's public health order prohibits mass gatherings, defining these gatherings as events with more than 100 people in a single space. That means stadiums, theaters, auditoriums, even parades, fairs and festivals.

"We have to take this action. We have to do everything we can to have an interruption," says DeWine.

There are exceptions, such as mass transit stations, shopping malls, places of worship, and free speech events.

But DeWine says organizations need to take it upon themselves to decide if staying open is worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus.