COLUMBUS – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state will be under a “stay at home” order beginning at 11:59 p.m. Monday due to rising concerns about spreading novel coronavirus.
The order will be in place until April 6, and health officials will reassess then if it needs to be extended.
“We are at war,” DeWine said. “And in a time of war we have to make sacrifices.”
State health officials reported 351 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, Sunday afternoon. That’s a 42% increase from Saturday. Three people have died and 83 have been hospitalized.
The state’s numbers only include people who have been tested for the virus and do not include others who have been diagnosed based on symptoms.
DeWine had warned for days the state was moving in the direction of closing non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Public health orders closed schools, restaurant dining rooms, bars, bowling alleys, barbershops, nail salons and other businesses last week.
Last week, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said the state was already sheltering in place “in a very gentle way.”
The message then: Please stay home if you can.
The message now: You must.
Acton signed a public health order Sunday ordering Ohioans to stay at home and maintain “social distancing” of at least 6 feet from another person.
The order makes several exemptions:
- If it’s a matter of health and safety: This includes seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or medication, or visiting a health care professional.
- For necessary supplies and services, such as groceries or food, household products, work supplies and auto supplies
- For outdoor activity, including walking, biking and hiking (playgrounds are closed)
- Certain types of work deemed “essential”
- To take care of others, including family, friends or pets in another household and to attend weddings and funerals
Non-essential businesses must close, but employees can continue working from home. Essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and dozens more will remain open but must comply with social distancing requirements.
DeWine said violators could face second-degree misdemeanor charges but he doesn’t anticipate many arrests.
Ohio is the seventh state to enact such an order, following California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey and Louisiana.
Acton said today is the day to batten the hatches and move to the model of essential business. She said Ohioans are being heroic by staying at home and she doesn’t want Ohioans to be afraid.
“Life seems like it’s shutting down, but I feel like life is waking us up,” Acton said. “I see a vision of a future that is brighter than we have now. I just know it in my heart and soul. Sp please don’t feel like this is pulling us apart. I believe this is drawing us to each other and binding us to each other.”
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DeWine and Acton have taken several actions in the last week to limit large gatherings and slow the spread of the virus. DeWine has urged businesses to send workers home, if they can, and for parents to remove children from child care if they are able. The goal: prevent a large surge of infections that overwhelms the state’s hospitals and health clinics.
“All the evidence shows – every piece of evidence I can lay my hands on – indicates we are at an absolutely crucial time in this war and what we do now will make all the difference in the world,” DeWine said.
Starting Thursday, child care centers must operate under a temporary pandemic child care license. There will be a requirement that these centers maintain a maximum of six children per room.
“This is a dramatic change, but it’s necessary to minimize the risk to these kids,” DeWine said.
The number of children in state-subsidized child care has decreased from 117,000 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to about 17,000 now, according to DeWine. Including private child care, an estimated 40,000 Ohio children are still in child care settings.
The state’s kindergarten through 12th grade schools closed last week. DeWine said this week he will ask the legislature to forgo state-mandated achievement tests for the 2019-20 school year.
In an emergency Sunday morning meeting, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy approved restrictions on two drugs thought to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms. The order bars pharmacists from dispensing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 unless a person has tested positive for the virus or been otherwise approved by the pharmacy board’s executive director.
There is no established treatment for COVID-19. The drugs are being used in some places on an experimental basis based on reports of small trials elsewhere, including France.