HUNTINGTON — Ohio residents will be under a temporary curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Thursday.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced the new measure as new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations related to it soar across the state. The curfew will last 21 days.
DeWine said the curfew does not prohibit anyone from going to work, getting food to go or from a drive-thru, or going to the hospital. The focus, he said, is limiting social gatherings and the number of contacts a person has in a day. He said a lot of it is common sense.
“If we can cut down contacts by 20-25%, this will make a difference,” DeWine said. “Paired with mask-wearing, this will go a long way from stopping our hospitals from being overrun.”
Ohio is quickly approaching 4,000 hospitalizations from COVID-19.
“We are at a critical juncture,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health. “We need to protect our health care workers. Even if we take necessary changes immediately, it will take weeks before we see improvement in hospital numbers. Even if you don’t believe in masks, please wear one.”
Last week, Vanderhoff and other medical professionals from around the state urged Ohioans to buckle down on wearing masks and social distancing. They and DeWine hinted that more precautions could be coming, including the shutdown of bars and restaurants. Dr. Andy Thomas, of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical School, said at the time he didn’t think a shutdown of industries would make much impact, as the spread of the virus was happening at private gatherings.
After meeting with stakeholders, including the Ohio Restaurant Association, DeWine opted for the curfew instead of a shutdown of establishments.
Lt. Gov. John Husted said it is a “slowdown, not a shutdown.”
On Monday, DeWine signed a revised public- gathering order that went into effect Tuesday. The order affects wedding receptions, funeral receptions and other banquet events. It places those events under the same guidance as restaurants, banning dancing and requiring masks at all times other than while eating or drinking.
New COVID-19 guidance also will be released in Kentucky on Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. It will include new measures for bars and restaurants.
Dr. Steven Stack, the Kentucky public health commissioner, said the number of Kentuckians hospitalized for COVID-19 has tripled in two months.
Stack said the “Healthy at Home” measures helped contain the initial escalation in March. The mask mandate blunted the second escalation in the summer, but the current escalation, he said, is steeper and starting from a higher level. Containing it, Stack said, will require additional measures.
Nearly 3,000 new positive cases were reported across Kentucky on Tuesday. The Ashland-Boyd County Health Department reported 42 new positive cases, with patients ranging from age 5 to 83. In November, 487 new cases have been reported in Boyd County.
In West Virginia, hospitalizations reached an all-time high Tuesday of 400 patients. There were 864 new positive cases reported, and 13 new deaths.