Governor Mike DeWine warned Ohioans in a statewide address Wednesday that further COVID-19 restrictions were possible if cases continue to increase. Bars, restaurants, and fitness centers currently remain open, but that will be reassessed this Thursday for potential closure.
“If the current trend continues and cases keep increasing, we will be forced to make these closures,” said Governor DeWine. “I am very well aware of the burden this will place on employees and owners, but these are places where it is difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus.”
Ohio’s mask order was also reissued with three new provisions. The first violation of the order will bring about a written warning, while the second will bring about closure of the retail location for up to 24 hours, according to DeWine.
Each business will be required to post a Face Covering Requirement sign at all public entrances to the store. Each store will be responsible for ensuring that customers and employees are wearing masks. The state’s new Retail Compliance Unit, comprised of agents led by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, will inspect to ensure compliance.
The order took effect Monday and does not apply to locations such as restaurants, bars, gyms and salons, as they fall under previously issued orders.
“My fellow Ohioans, few times in our lives will we ever be able to do something — or refrain from doing something — that will or can save a life,” said DeWine. “This is one of those rare times.”
Ohio’s April order that limits public events and private gatherings of more than 10 people is still in effect, however, the state has reported rampant spread of the virus as a result of banquets, wedding receptions, and social gatherings following funerals.
In response, the Ohio Department of Health will issue an order that will place significant new restrictions on these social activities. Specifically, open congregate areas will no longer be permitted to open, and everyone will be required to be seated and masked unless they are actively consuming food or drinks.
DeWine said that each generation has faced challenges.
“Americans have been asked to lay down their lives so that our nation might live. Today, we all must do something far less dramatic — wear a mask so that your friends, neighbors, and family members might live,” DeWine said.
The governor said Ohio is seeing a third surge, but this time things are different. During the spring and summer virus surges, the most COVID patients in the hospital at one time was just over 1,100. Now that number is around 3,000.
“We had been warned that when it got colder and drier, and when people were indoors more, the virus would rise up again. And it certainly has,” he said. “This surge is much more intense, widespread and dangerous.”
Every county in the state now has a high rate of virus spread. At the end of September, Ohio averaged under 1,000 new cases per day. Last week, Ohio hit a record high of more than 8,000 new cases reported in a single 24-hour period.
“With this new wave of COVID-19, the onset of flu season, and an already-exhausted group of healthcare workers, there are serious concerns that there won’t be enough people to fully staff our healthcare facilities in the next few weeks,” said DeWine. “If we don’t change this, Ohio won’t be able to provide appropriate care for COVID patients or for Ohioans who require other emergency care for things like accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but less urgent, care.”
The governor urged every Ohioan to do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands, and staying home as much as possible.
“As we wait for the vaccine, which could come as soon as December, we have so much to protect,” said DeWine. “What each Ohioan does in his or her own life impacts every citizen and every place we desperately want and need to keep open – our schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and businesses.”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010