COLUMBUS — Due to the coronavirus, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon that, after consulting with experts, “children in the state will have an extended spring break of 3 weeks” beginning after school on Monday — “all K-12 schools: public, private, charter.”
He added, “We will review this afterwards.”
DeWine also announced that the state is banning mass gatherings of 100-plus people in Ohio; this does not include “typical office environments, schools, restaurants, factories, or retail or grocery stores where large groups of people are present but it is unusual for them to be within an arm’s length of one another.”
He said that, on Thursday, Ohio has a new confirmed case of COVID-19, “bringing our number of confirmed cases to 5. We expect the cases to continue to grow as the virus spreads and the number of tests performed increases.”
Ohio Health Director Amy Acton said Thursday “I know it is hard to understand COVID-19 since we can’t see it, but we know that 1 percent of our population is carrying this virus today — that’s over 100,000 people.”
DeWine said that, “Although we severely limited visitors to nursing homes/assisted living facilities, we have heard from the nursing home industry asking us for a stricter order restricting all outside visitors. We are working on updating our order to reflect this change.
DeWine also said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost will be on the lookout for price gouging and that the AG is “prepared to take action on this unconscionable practice.”
Regarding Ohio voters going to the polls on Tuesday for the primary election, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted assured citizens that, “Voting does not meet the definition of a mass gathering. Election day will go as planned.”
Miami Trace Local Schools and Washington Court House City Schools decided Thursday afternoon to take action ahead of the mandated three-week closure and put their districts on a two-hour delay Friday. Both districts’ last day before the closure will be Friday.
WCHCS Director of Marketing and Communications Trevor Patton said Thursday the district was preparing for their Remote Learning Program and will take advantage of the two-hour delay Friday so they can continue to “facilitate education in our community during this time.”
“As this decision was announced by the Governor just a few moments ago, and we are waiting on further guidance from the Ohio Department of Education at this time,” a post from the district said. “We do know that all schools across the state, including WCHCS, will be closed for the next three weeks starting Monday, March 16th. Thank you for your understanding as we receive more guidance from the state.
“We appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time.”
Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis urges parents to regularly check their emails, get an email address — if they do not have access to one — set up with the school district, and to check the website and social media for continual updates.
“We will be releasing additional guidelines very soon,” said Lewis. “As of now, our return date will be Monday, April 6th.”
Fayette County Bible Church Pastor Tony Garren said Thursday the school will follow Governor DeWine’s mandate for school closing. Monday, March 16 will be the last day of school and they will not have classes from March 17 through April 3.
“Our teachers will be preparing worksheets to go home with children on Monday to be used during this mandated time away from school,” Garren said. “Our teachers will be in contact with our students and will be available for questions about instructions and worksheets that are sent home. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this very difficult time.”
Also on Thursday, Fayette County and the City of Washington Court House agency partners met at Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) to discuss agency updates concerning coronavirus.
“During the meeting, the topic of mass gatherings was discussed at length,” said Leigh Cannon, deputy health commissioner. “The group collectively decided to limit the number of people allowed at a group event.”
It was recommended to the Annual Community Health Fair committee that they cancel this year’s community health fair scheduled for April 25. The committee agreed and the health fair is canceled.
FCPH is still recommending to the community to weigh the risk involved with any public venture. If the risk is too high or is not a necessary thing to do, FCPH recommends not to do it.
“The response team will continue to meet on a weekly basis,” said Cannon. “Public updates will continue as often as necessary while we all venture through this crisis together. We know that this is going to be a disruption to our everyday life, but this will pass. We can rest knowing that we saved lives because of our willingness to be responsible for our own health and the health of those around us.”
Other closings and developments due to the potential spread of the virus include:
According to Cheryl Stockwell, per discussions with Cannon, it has been decided that the Fayette County Commission on Aging will be closed on Friday, March 13. She said the organization was expecting a larger crowd than normal and with the recent announcements from the Governor, they felt it was necessary to help in the efforts to try and keep people healthy. She said the organization is not trying to ensue panic, but is instead trying to do its part in protecting, “our precious senior citizens.” The Commission on Aging will be delivering Meals on Wheels only.
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office recently sent out notifications that the following will be suspended until further notice: civilian fingerprinting, concealed carry permits, and inmate visitation. The notifications explained that they are working on providing telephone visitation during this time.
Nursing homes in the county are canceling events to protect residents and are limiting visitation hours. Please check their websites and social media platforms prior to visiting.
Governor’s school order
A look at DeWine’s decision:
The order takes effect at the close of the day Monday and runs through Friday, April 3. DeWine said the decision will be evaluated as time passes, including whether to extend it. Despite the announcement, some districts, such as Columbus, announced they’re shutting down beginning Monday.
The order applies to all K-12 schools, public and private, but not preschools or daycares. It doesn’t cover extracurricular events like sporting events or performances. DeWine said those would be up to districts, although those might be covered by an order also issued Thursday prohibiting gatherings of over 100 people.
One in four Ohio school children is eligible to receive lunch for free or reduced costs, or more than 700,000 children, and often eat breakfast and lunch at school, raising concerns about what they’ll do for meals during the closure. DeWine and state Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said the state is examining what federal rules could be waived to allow distribution of food outside schools. Acton also said there’s a role for charities to play as they already do when schools are off. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks also said it’s ready to help.
DeWine said he’s aware the closure could affect districts’ preparation for state-mandated tests, but that’s also something that may have to be examined because of the nature of the crisis. “If we can’t have testing this year, we can’t have testing this year. The world will not come to an end if we don’t have testing,” the governor said.
Akron Public Schools Superintendent David W. James said his district has been planning for two weeks for the possibility of a school closure and is finalizing plans to enable students to do lessons at home. “We feel this decision puts minds at ease and reduces the distractions to learning caused by this situation,” James said in a statement.
The state’s largest teacher’s union commended the decision in a statement Thursday. Ohio Education President Scott DiMauro said the organization “understands the sacrifice this is going to entail for all Ohioans but agrees this is the best action at this time.” OEA represents 122,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in Ohio’s public schools, colleges and universities.
Jane Irwin, a mother of two grade-schoolers in Upper Arlington in suburban Columbus said her two boys found out on the bus ride home Thursday that schools would be out an extra two weeks after their spring break. They came bounding in the door, saying excitedly “its like a mini-summer.” She told them “not exactly” but also said it’s the right decision.
“Italy is an example of what can happen if you don’t get it under control,” Irwin said.