Governor orders all Ohio bars, restaurants to close


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — All bars and restaurants in Ohio will be closed as of 9 p.m. Sunday until further notice, said Gov. Mike DeWine, who is taking a tough stance on trying to stem the coronavirus saying “if we don’t take these actions now, it’ll be too late.”

DeWine said what he called “very drastic action” was prompted by concerns from around the state about crowded bars. He said takeout and delivery would still be allowed.

DeWine said he understood the impact on small businesses and steps would be taken to mitigate the suffering.

“What we’ve done this week is drastic action, but we’re taking these steps to save lives,” DeWine tweeted.

The governor said earlier in the day that it was possible that Ohio schools may be closed for the rest of the academic year.

The city of Columbus announced Sunday that a firefighter/emergency medical technician had tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighter has been isolated at home and 31 firefighters who had contact with the individual are being evaluated.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium joined the list of organizations announcing temporary closures.

A look at the latest developments in Ohio:

DeWINE GETTING TOUGH

DeWine said he doesn’t know when bars and restaurants will reopen.

“How long this order will be in effect, we don’t frankly know,” DeWine told reporters Sunday afternoon. “It will be in effect as long as it needs to.”

DeWine said he understood the “brutally tough” impact on small businesses and steps would be taken to mitigate the suffering.

“Delay means more people will die,” he said. ”Literally every day we delay, the data clearly shows that more people will die.” More than that, he said, the Ohio health care system “will not hold up” for others with urgent needs, such as those with strokes or heart attacks.

“People will die if we do not do not make these decisions,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said an executive order would be signed to enable workers who do not have paid leave benefits to access unemployment compensation during the emergency. Others steps would help bar and restaurant owners return liquor purchased for holiday or sporting events and to allow businesses and nonprofits help through disaster loans, he said.

___

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

DeWine says it’s possible Ohio schools may be closed for the rest of the academic year.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Nation” Sunday morning, DeWine cited projections that the virus may not peak until the latter part of April or May.

DeWine on Thursday ordered every school in Ohio to close for three weeks beginning at day’s end Monday. He and Health Director Dr. Amy Acton acknowledged the hardships and disruptions that the order will create but said it’s necessary to help Ohio through the crisis.

The governor’s comments came a day after Ohio’s reported cases of the coronavirus doubled to 26. In Franklin County, local officials reported two more cases Sunday.

Acton issued an order banning gatherings of over 100 people. The ban is not absolute and exempts airports, workplaces, restaurants, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals and other events.

___

CASES

As of Sunday, there were 36 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio and 350 people under investigation, Äcton said, but she emphasized that such cases were only “the tip of the iceberg.” There have been no reported deaths in the state.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

___

ZOO CLOSURES:

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium joined the list of organizations announcing temporary closures amid the outbreak.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium officials announced a temporary closure as of Monday, while noting that there have been no known cases of exposure to the virus there.

Cleveland Metroparks said the zoo will close beginning Monday until at least March 31. Cleveland Metroparks indoor public facilities will also be closed and all events and programs are canceled.