As of 10 p.m. on Thursday, a curfew is in effect across Ohio for the next 21 days in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced the curfew earlier this week ordering residents to stay home from 10 p.m. until 5 a.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
There are some "common-sense" exceptions to the curfew order, meaning people traveling to or from work, those seeking emergency care or those in need of medical assistance are exempt. It also doesn't apply to non-retail stores like grocery stores or pharmacies. The order also doesn’t apply to people experiencing homelessness or individuals whose residences are unsafe or become unsafe, such as victims of domestic violence. The order also does not apply to religious observances and First Amendment protected speech including activity by the media.
The curfew applies to indoor dining at restaurants and bars, but you can still order food, pick up orders or use drive-thrus after 10 p.m. Previously, bars had been operating under a curfew that required a 10 p.m. last call and an 11 p.m. closing time.
Violating the curfew is a second-degree misdemeanor charge 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 has left it up to local law enforcement to carry out the order.
The Hamilton County Sheriff said deputies will enforce the curfew order, first by issuing a verbal warning followed up with a citation if people don't head home.
"Yes, you can still take your dog outside or go for a walk," Sheriff Jim Neil said in a release Thursday. "My goal as Sheriff of Hamilton County is to keep my deputies and the general public safe."
Meanwhile, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said his deputies will not enforce DeWine's curfew and urged residents there not to call the sheriff’s office if they see someone breaking curfew.
While DeWine said he doesn't expect police to pull people over or use a heavy hand in enforcement, he said it will give them a reason to disband groups of people congregating in public areas after 10.
The curfew, designed not to harm businesses like a full shutdown would, is meant to encourage people gathering in the evening to head home earlier in order to curb the amount of potential inter-household exposure, DeWine said.
On Monday, DeWine ordered new restrictions in effect on mass gatherings focused on wedding receptions, funerals and other events held at banquet-style facilities. The original health order from April, which never officially expired, capped those gatherings at 10 people and is still in effect.
Ohio's Department of Health reported 7,787 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, though DeWine said the actual number could be higher as the state is waiting to double-check the results of 12,000 antigen tests. Health experts who joined the governor Thursday discussed low levels of available staffing at many hospitals and emphasized the impact of the pandemic in rural areas.