Just hours after new restrictions took effect limiting mass gatherings and other large-scale activities in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine announced he plans to issue a statewide curfew, beginning at 10 p.m. on Thursday.
The curfew will be in effect for 21 days, he said, and means retail businesses must be closed from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and residents must be home as well.
The curfew has "common-sense" exceptions, DeWine said, such as people traveling to or from work, those seeking emergency care or those in need of medical assistance. It also doesn't apply to non-retail stores like grocery stores or pharmacies, he later clarified.
It does apply to dine-in options at restaurants and bars, but people are still allowed to order food, pick up orders or go through a drive-thru past 10 p.m. Previously, bars had been operating under a curfew that requires last call to happen by 10 p.m. and bars to be closed by 11 p.m.
“We think it’s the right step at the right time," said Ohio Restaurant Association president John Barker. "It’s going to allow Ohioans to do their part. Without having what we thought would be an immediate and disastrous impact on restaurants and employees.”
Violating the curfew can result in criminal charges: It's a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $750. While previous orders issued by DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health have relied on local health departments to enforce, DeWine said this order will be enforced by local law enforcement.
DeWine said he doesn't expect police to pull people over or use a heavy hand in enforcement, but said it will give them a reason to disband groups of people congregating in public areas after 10:00 p.m.
We are issuing a curfew in Ohio that will start Thursday. This will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for 21 days. We believe this will help reduce #COVID19 spread. I'm also asking each Ohioan every day to do at least one thing that reduces your contact with others.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) November 17, 2020
The curfew is intended to be temporary, and designed not to harm businesses to the same degree a full shutdown would, said DeWine. He said his intent is for the curfew to encourage people who are gathering in the evening to head home earlier in order to curb the amount of potential inter-household exposure. In past press conferences, DeWine has cited family gatherings and informal parties as the highest source of infection and spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.
"Our idea is to carve this time up, and we know that if we all do it, with some exceptions, that that in and of itself will reduce some of these contacts that are going on," said DeWine.
Every county in Ohio is currently experiencing double the infection instance rate set by the CDC, and hospitals throughout the state have begun to struggle with COVID-19 admissions and ICU patients. One month ago, DeWine said roughly 280 people were in Ohio ICUs with severe COVID-19 infections. Now, more than 900 patients are in ICU departments.
On Oct. 13, there were roughly 1,000 people admitted to Ohio hospitals with the virus. Those numbers have increased, with 3,648 Ohioans admitted into hospitals on Tuesday, Nov. 17, more than tripling the hospitalization rate in the state in just over one month.
Hospitalizations:— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) November 17, 2020
On Oct. 13 we had 1,000 hospitalizations.
On Nov. 5: 2,000
Nov. 12: 3,000
Today: We're approaching 4,000 hospitalizations. pic.twitter.com/Zq40Wnod6J
"It took us five months to get to our first 100,000 cases and we've had 100,000 cases of virus spread over the last three weeks," said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
While many have cited increased testing as the primary reason for a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases reported, the governor said the increase in testing does not account for the greater rate of positive results. Testing is part of the increase, but there has been a sharp increase in COVID-19 positivity rates throughout the state.
“We tested the idea of the curfew with the business community, hospital community, health community," Husted said. "They all thought this was a reasonable compromise to get there and find the balance. If people follow it — it’ll work."
Amid consistently spiking COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, DeWine has regularly asked Ohioans to be stringent about mask-wearing and avoiding casual gatherings, especially as temperatures drop and the holiday season approaches.
Watch the full press conference below: