Coronavirus: State passes 7,000 deaths, DeWine to extend curfew

More than 7,000 Ohioans have died due to the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and the majority of students across Ohio are going to school remotely.

“Only 29% of students are going to school fully in person,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday during his afternoon video press conference on the status of the virus.

ExploreUPDATE: Here’s who has online or in-person classes at area schools

Most school districts are either fully remote or operating on a hybrid learning schedule. The state’s data was reported as of Dec. 3, so the rate could be higher. For example, Xenia City Schools had been in person five days a week all year, but on Monday began learning remotely.

“This is something that has just occurred, district by district,” he said.

All decisions have been made at the local level. COVID-19 in the community has meant that many districts are having difficulty keeping bus drivers, staff and substitutes.

DeWine announced the new COVID-19 data reported by the Ohio Department of Health, which includes 9,273 new cases in Ohio.

“This is the sixth highest case number,” DeWine said.

There also are 336 new hospitalizations, 40 new ICU admissions and 7,022 deaths in the last 24 hours.

While it appears the case rate may be flattening, health care experts have told the governor it is unsustainable.

The statewide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., which is set to expire on Thursday, will be extended, said DeWine, who did not provide any details on new orders.

“We think the curfew, as well as the mask order and the enforcement, have slowed this rate of increase, but it is still at too high of a level,” he said.

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Starting Tuesday, Ohio will align with how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports positive antigen testing, DeWine said.

The CDC in August changed its case definition to allow antigen tests to be included in case counts without additional verification. The ODH continued to manually verify those exposures and symptoms before counting these tests as positive, he said.

There are 12,600 positive antigen tests in the pending case queue, which will be added to the rest of the positive cases on Tuesday, dating back to Nov. 1.

“That will result in a one-day spike in reported cases tomorrow,” DeWine said.

All of the backlogged tests will not translate into new cases. They will be checked and duplicate records will be removed, he said. In the coming weeks. those results also will be added to the state’s positivity calculation.

Explore650,000 Ohioans vaccinated by New Year? ‘We’re in a big hurry about it,’ DeWine says.

DeWine said he plans to post the vaccine numbers, such as a running count of how many people received shots.

Last week, DeWine said that Ohio is expected to have received and administered about 659,000 doses of the two coronavirus vaccinations. The first people immunized likely would be health care workers, emergency medical technicians and residents and staff in nursing homes, assisted living and other congregate living facilities.

DeWine on Monday morning issued a statement strongly urging Congress members to pass a relief package before they leave Washington for the holiday break.

“We know the next few months are going to be tough. Getting a bill out of Congress is very, very important,” the governor said.

Unemployment, money for small business and flexibility for the state are important parts he would like to see included in a bipartisan bill, he said.

“I think sometimes it’s been underestimated the huge impact the CARES Act has had,” he said. “We are now in a very dangerous phase … We really desperately need a bill out of Congress.”

DeWine began his Monday press briefing with a reminder that exactly 79 years ago, more than 2,400 Americans died during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Our flags are flying at half staff throughout the state today in honor and remembrance of those who died in Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941; 2,403 Americans died,” he said. “We remember them today and we remember all those who sacrificed in World War II.”