Statewide curfew seeks to slow COVID spread

A statewide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will go in to effect Thursday for Ohioans over the next three weeks — the latest in the effort to reverse course on the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

“The goal is to have fewer contacts,” Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday. “The whole idea is if you can slow these contacts down, it will go a long way in slowing this virus down.”

Exceptions will be made for those who need to be out for work, emergencies, medical care, groceries or restaurant meal pick-ups or drive-throughs, DeWine said. Patrons must leave bars and restaurants at 10 p.m. but carryout food service can continue.

“Let’s give this a run for 21 days," DeWine said. "We may have to take more drastic action, I don’t know ... We’ll have to judge it at that time.”

DeWine said he doesn’t expect police to pull over people after 10 p.m., but the order will give law enforcement the ability to ask people who are congregating to go home.

“No shutdowns, just a slow down,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, describing how the curfew would strike a balance between economic disruption and helping health care workers.

The Ohio Department of Health reported 7,079 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 305,364 since the pandemic began. Currently, 3,648 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 1,000 four weeks ago. And within the previous 24 hours, 30 people died, bringing the cumulative fatality count to 5,742 in Ohio.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, ODH chief medical officer, said Ohio could face a shortage of health care workers if the virus continues to spread. “We are at a critical juncture. We need to protect our health care workers."

While an increase in the number of tests accounts for some increase in case numbers, DeWine said that isn’t all of it. The seven-day average rate of positive tests is 12.8%, which means nearly 13 in 100 tests are coming back positive for the virus.

The rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations comes just as Ohioans head into the holiday season with Thanksgiving next week.

DeWine reported that more people are wearing masks inside stores after his administration ordered retailers to enforce the requirement among customers and employees.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and Ohio Manufacturers Association issued a joint statement saying that businesses are seeing workforce challenges due to sick or quarantined workers.

Shutting down our economy again, or even closing certain businesses altogether, is definitely not the solution. A temporary curfew may be the least disruptive option to our recovering economy that can be taken right now to give our health care providers necessary breathing room. All Ohioans must also take seriously their responsibility to help stop the spread," the statement says.

The Ohio Restaurant Association supports the curfew and praised the decision to allow carryout food after 10 p.m.

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