COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio schools will remain closed until at least May 1, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday afternoon. It's "very possible," he added, they could stay that way until the end of the academic year.
Shortly after the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Ohio, DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton ordered all of the schools — public and private — closed from March 17-April 6. DeWine originally referred to it as an "extended spring break."
By Monday, however, experts projected that going back to school on the scheduled date would put students, teachers, their families and people around them at too much risk. The state's most up-to-date epidemiology reports placed its anticipated peak of COVID-19 cases between late April and mid-May, when — according to Acton — each day could bring up to 10,000 new diagnoses.
Acton and DeWine will re-evaluate the reopening date as May 1 approaches, DeWine said.
The state government is also prepared to tighten the "stay-at-home" order issued March 22 if Ohioans do not continue to practice voluntary social distancing. Groups congregating at parks are a particular concern as the weather heats up, DeWine said.
“We’ve issued a lot of orders, more orders than we ever wanted to issue," he said. "The question is, do we have to issue any more? We’re looking at that.”
State health officials had confirmed 1,933 cases of COVID-19 by the time DeWine and Acton gave their daily news briefing. About 25% of those patients — 475 of them — had been hospitalized, with 163 in intensive care. Thirty-nine, including an emergency room nurse, had died.
And the confirmed numbers are not real totals, Acton said. Testing remains mostly restricted to the sickest patients and healthcare workers, meaning many more Ohioans could be carrying the virus or even exhibiting symptoms without their diagnoses being confirmed.
The good news: When tests do happen, they're happening much faster. According to Acton, the state health lab can now process a COVID-19 test within eight hours; sometimes within five.