Gov. Mike DeWine is prepared to relax Ohio’s curfew as soon as Thursday if concurrent hospitalizations in the state remain under 3,500 for seven full days. On Tuesday, when he made his announcement, Ohio had six days of success already under its belt.
If the trend continues, DeWine said his administration plans to postpone the nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., allowing many businesses to remain open for an extra hour each day.
Such a move would be particularly significant for restaurants and bars, which — already hard-hit by the pandemic and accompanying limitations on indoor gatherings — lost some of their best business hours when DeWine first enacted the curfew in November.
And lower numbers of hospitalizations could prompt further changes: At seven consecutive days of fewer than 3,000 simultaneous hospitalizations, the curfew would move back to midnight. Seven days of fewer than 2,500 would nix it altogether.
Likewise, rising hospitalization numbers could bring it back. The state plans to reevaluate every two weeks, DeWine said.
“The one thing we’ve learned about this virus is, it’s extremely unpredictable,” he said. “We don’t know where it’s going to go.”
For now, according to DeWine and Ohio Department of Health chief medical officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, daily diagnosis numbers look better than they have in weeks. ODH has reported fewer than 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 for eight of the last nine days.
However, daily deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are still higher than usual. ODH reported 4,262 new cases Tuesday alongside 88 new deaths, 295 new hospitalizations and 40 new ICU admissions.
The state’s ongoing vaccination campaign expanded Monday to include all Ohioans over the age of 75 and people with certain high-risk health conditions. By Friday, staff members at a small number of K-12 schools — including some in Cincinnati Public Schools — will have received their first shot, too.
DeWine’s longtime goal for all Ohio schools to resume in-person or blended learning by March 1 will mean that many staff members return to the classroom having received only one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, rather than completing their vaccination with the second “booster” dose.
It’s not ideal, DeWine said, but the ongoing scarcity of vaccine doses means a start is better than nothing.
Of the supply issue, he said: “That’s not going away, at least in the immediate future.”
But the state has taken measures to mitigate it, including requesting more doses from President Joe Biden’s new administration and securing permission to divert doses refused by high-priority candidates.
The largest group of refusals so far, according to DeWine, is among workers in nursing homes. Patients have generally been eager to receive the vaccine, but workers — also included in the very first round of vaccination — accept it at a rate of about 50%.
The governor said the unexpectedly high rate of refusal has led to many vaccine doses intended for them instead going unused. In the next two weeks, the state will distribute 77,000 excess doses to other high-priority vaccine candidates.