Coronavirus: Please don’t have high school graduation parties, DeWine says

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How high school graduation ceremonies are held is up to Ohio’s 612 school districts, but they must comply with social distancing and gather no more than 10 people at a time, Gov. Mike DeWine said on Wednesday.

“As a father of eight and grandfather of 24, Fran and I know about graduations. We know how important they are. They are occasions of great joy for a family,” DeWine said.

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The state health and education departments issued guidance to local school districts that says virtual graduations are the preferred option, followed by a drive-in ceremony for each student to get his or her diploma at a designated time and place. The third option — the least preferred — would be to gather in groups of no more than 10 people.

DeWine also issued a plea to families to cancel plans for graduation parties.

“This is a tough issue and I would ask people to remember that because graduation parties can pose as much risk or more risk, frankly, than a graduation. Remember that our order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people at a time. While it is time to graduate, it is not the time to have a graduation party. That will have to wait. I understand how hard this is for the class of 2020,” he said.

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The Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday reported 16,601 confirmed cases, plus 702 probable coronavirus cases; 3,421 hospitalizations; 856 deaths, plus 81 deaths attributed to probable cases.

As Ohio begins to reopen segments of the economy in May, employers and businesses will have to follow new protocols to provide social distancing, hand hygiene and worker masking.

The governor said businesses today will be safer from any infectious diseases than they’ve ever been because of the new precautions.

The issue of masks has sparked questions and strong feelings on both sides of the matter. People with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for coronavirus complications have argued that universal masking is the best way to protect them. Ohioans who oppose masks see a mandate as a government overreach that steps on individual liberties.

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DeWine on Wednesday announced $16 million in federal CARES Act grant money available for law enforcement entities to defray costs associated with the coronavirus. The money can be used for items such as overtime costs, video conferencing technology purchases, testing in jails, medical expenses for jail inmates or buying personal protective equipment.

The governor also announced that the state shipped 4.4 million pieces of protective equipment to local emergency management agencies, which will distribute the gear to nursing homes, jails, hospitals, first responders and others.

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Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton also said the state expects to kick off a prevalence study on Monday, which involves taking blood samples from 1,000 randomly selected Ohioans to check to see if they have antibodies indicating they’ve had COVID19. Results are expected in two to three weeks, she said.

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