Gov. Mike DeWine said Dr. Amy Acton, the health director of the Ohio Department of Health, will order all bars and restaurants to close at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 15, in Ohio.
DeWine said he came to the decision after hearing from people around the state on Saturday night who were concerned about crowded bars. He said he was concerned with St. Patrick’s Day coming up Tuesday that people would ignore warnings and go out to bars.
The governor encouraged restaurants to offer carryout or delivery service, but said they would not be allowed to have people congregating in them.
“This is a matter of life and death and so we’re very mindful of the economic hurt ... this is brutally tough and my heart goes out to them but we have to do what we have to do to save their lives,” DeWine said. "I can't tell you how sorry I am."
Lt. Gov Jon Husted said the governor will sign an executive order to provide unemployment benefits for people who are affected by COVID-19. That will include people who are self-quarantining and others who may be affected by their employer closing for the time being.
The cost of these additional unemployment benefits will be “neutralized,” Husted said. Husted said there is “no doubt” that the administration will have to ask the legislature to strengthen Ohio’s unemployment system, but said that wasn’t required immediately.
Husted said the decision to close bars and restaurants was a difficult choice. He said the state did not want people to stop buying food from restaurants and only go to the grocery store because that would also cause problems.
Meanwhile, a Columbus Fire Division firefighter/EMT was among two Franklin County residents who were confirmed Sunday as testing positive for COVID-19. That brought the total to three announced in the county over the weekend.
Ohio had 37 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon. The Ohio Department of Health reported that 361 people are under investigation, and 140 have tested negative.
Acton said it is getting increasingly hard to provide accurate numbers on confirmed cases, because “they are pouring in so quickly.”
“Cases can be very misleading to the public because it’s a past historical event because of our lack of testing cases are just the tip of the iceberg ... we will not have an accurate picture of that,” Acton said.
DeWine said on national television March 15 that Ohio’s classrooms might not be able to reopen this spring to complete the school year as the state’s number of coronavirus cases continues to spiral.
The odds are that three weeks will not be long enough of a closure, DeWine said Sunday afternoon. But, the governor said he didn’t know how schools would remain shuttered.
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