COLUMBUS, Ohio — Non-essential businesses will stay closed and Ohioans will be required to stay home until at least May 1, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon. His first stay-at-home order would have expired at midnight April 6 — long before the anticipated peak of COVID-19 cases in the state began.
For the first time Thursday, DeWine gave a concrete date range for when he and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton expect the novel coronavirus to hit hardest: Between April 15 and May 15.
Acton has likened "the surge" to a hurricane and forecasted that each new day of that peak could bring 10,000 new diagnoses, despite the significant steps Ohio has taken to contain the spread. Measures like closing most businesses, encouraging social distancing and mandating most businesses let employees work from home can't stop a hurricane, she said Wednesday, only soften it from a Category 5 to a Category 3.
That could still be the difference between dozens or hundreds of deaths and thousands. Ohioans shouldn't relax their precautions because the worst has yet to arrive, she added.
"My biggest worry is that, in the quiet before the storm, we forget how important every one of our choices is and the countless lives we’re impacting," Acton said.
The state's new stay-at-home order adds a handful of provisions to the original, including:
- Retail businesses must determine the maximum safe number of people in their building and enforce it, keeping customers outside if necessary.
- People traveling into Ohio from out-of-state must quarantine for at least 14 days. (People who cross the border to work or shop for groceries are exempt.)
- No restrictions will be imposed on weddings and funeral ceremonies, but receptions must obey state law — no more than 10 people may attend.
- A new state-created dispute resolution panel will resolve situations in which similar businesses are treated differently in different health districts.
ODH had confirmed 2,902 cases of COVID-19 at the time the new order was issued. Health departments and hospitals continue to only test the sickest and most vulnerable people, meaning many more cases likely remain unreported or unconfirmed. Of the known patients, 802 were hospitalized, 260 had been admitted to intensive care units and 81 were dead.
All those numbers are far lower than they would be if the state had not been pro-active about shutting down schools, businesses and large social gatherings, DeWine said. Ohioans must continue to abstain from many ordinary daily activities to keep them that way.
"We gotta keep this monster down," he said. "He’s not dead. He’s very much alive, and we’re seeing our fellow citizens die every day."