COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton ordered all Ohio bars and restaurants to end their dine-in options beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday in order to enforce social distancing and stymie the spread of COVID-19.
Bars and restaurants can still offer delivery and carry-out options, DeWine said. Stores selling food and alcohol can stay open.
Although only 36 Ohio cases of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed by the time they addressed the public at 3:40 p.m., Acton compared the virus to the light of a distant star — by the time it becomes visible, it's already been traveling for weeks. Carriers may remain asymptomatic for up to 14 days. The number of diagnosed cases, she said, is only a small preview of the real number at any given time.
"Timing is everything, and every day matters," she said.
Later, she added: "This is not a drill. This is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and everything each of us does matters."
DeWine opened Sunday's press conference by pointing to a graph of deaths in two cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Philadelphia, which registered its first case Sept. 17 and did not begin social distancing until Oct. 7, recorded 250 deaths per every 100,000 people at the outbreak's peak. St. Louis, which implemented social distancing measures two days after the first diagnosis, recorded less than a fifth of that number.
Ohio needed to act quickly and decisively to keep its own numbers down, DeWine said — not only of deaths from COVID-19 but deaths indirectly caused by a potential overload of the state's medical resources.
"If we do not act, and stop and break up these groups, our healthcare system in the state of Ohio will not hold up," he said. "We’ve got people who have strokes, who have heart attacks, who have urgent needs for that healthcare system to attend to."
He acknowledged the effect the order would likely have on the state's food and drink businesses, many of which spent weeks and significant portions of their budgets preparing for exuberant St. Patrick's Day celebrations March 17.
"I have some idea of that suffering, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am," DeWine said. "Our goal is for everyone to get through this. What we wish is that next St. Patrick’s Day, they’re going to be there and they’ll have the opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and not only that, but the opportunity to live their life and their American dream."
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced DeWine would sign an executive order extending some economic relief programs to businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic.
- It will enable workers without paid leave, workers whose workplaces are shut down and people quarantined by an employer or doctor to access unemployment benefits during the state of emergency.
- It will eliminate the previously required one-week gap between leaving a job and filing for unemployment benefits.
For small business owners:
- It will allow them to return unopened high-proof liquor purchased within the last 30 days. Husted said the state hopes this helps dull the blow of missing out on traffic-driving events such as St. Patrick's Day and March Madness.
- It will allow them to apply for a low-interest disaster relief loan of up to $2 million.
All Ohioans, regardless of whether they live in a county with a diagnosed case of coronavirus or not, should practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently and limit physical interactions with others.
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 45 countries across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
- The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.