COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s overnight curfew will last into the new year, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday afternoon. With some exceptions, retail stores must close and Ohioans must remain at home from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. until at least Jan. 2, 2021.
Thursday’s announcement extended an order that DeWine issued shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday in mid-November. As in November, grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open; restaurants can offer take-out or drive-thru meals; Ohioans can hit the road to seek medical care or travel to work.
But most Ohioans have a responsibility to stay home, DeWine said. Christmas, 15 days away, could produce a devastating glut of COVID-19 cases if they don’t. Many regions of the state are struggling to make room in intensive care units that are already more than 80% full.
“The next three weeks will really be the most important three weeks for all of us in this pandemic,” DeWine said, adding: “We cannot afford, on the very eve of a safe and effective vaccination, to further overwhelm our hospitals and health care providers with a holiday tsunami.”
The Ohio Department of Health recorded 11,738 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, making it the state’s fourth-highest day of new diagnoses since the pandemic began. ODH also reported 111 new deaths, 452 new hospitalizations and 31 new ICU admissions.
Given the two-week window in which most COVID-19 infections become symptomatic, many of these cases are likely linked to Thanksgiving celebrations and travel. More than a million Americans flew for the holiday, despite health officials’ warnings that they should stay home.
Echoing the words of local health care workers, DeWine said Ohioans should remain at home for Christmas, even if it pains them to do so.
“Look, I get it,” he said. “None of this is easy. This is very hard on everyone. Very, very hard. It’s human nature. It’s baked into our DNA. We’re social people. We want to be with friends; we want to be with family, and I fully understand that.”
But the biggest threat to the mental and emotional health of the state’s people, as well as to its economy, is COVID-19, DeWine said. Remaining at home is the best way to salvage it all, long-term.
To help make his point, DeWine enlisted a fleet of health care workers from across the state, from Mercy Health physician Dr. Fareedah Goodwin-Capers to Ohio University obstetrics professor Jody Gerome to University Hospitals’ Dr. Daniel Simon.
The doctors read aloud ODH’s new set of guidelines for Ohioans to follow over the holidays, which DeWine described as “sensible steps that we can all follow.” The guidelines are not backed by legislative power or criminal consequences; they are advice to Ohioans as Christmas approaches.
The guidelines are:
- Stay at home whenever possible, leaving only for work, school and essential supplies.
- Wear a mask when interacting with any person who is not a member of your household.
- Keep interactions short and maintain a social distance.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Work from home if your job permits.
- Don’t eat or drink with anyone outside of your household.
- Celebrate safe. Celebrate small.
- Limit travel.
- Keep weddings and funerals safe with mask-wearing, distancing and short guest lists.
- Observe winter holidays safely by remaining at home with household members and finding new, distanced ways to adapt your traditions.
“This is truly a matter of life and death,” said Dr. Jennifer Wall Forrester, an infectious disease specialist at UC Health. “Each and every single one of us, all of you, have a role to play in saving lives.”