Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Patrick Duhaney today issued new orders they say are designed to prevent the spread of the pandemic coronavirus COVID-19.
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Hamilton County, but the number of confirmed cases statewide shot up to 50 today, with 14 of those cases requiring hospitalization. That's an increase from the 37 cases confirmed as of yesterday and from the three ODH had confirmed on March 9 — one week ago.
The new orders in Cincinnati require residents to leave a minimum of six feet of space between each other in outdoor public places whenever possible.
Couples, families and caregivers are exempt from the order, which will be enforced by suggestion by Cincinnati police officers.
"Obviously, you'll pass someone on the sidewalk. Of course, we understand you'll be within six feet momentarily," Cranley said. "This is not to arrest anybody."
Separate orders also suspended in-person city commission and board meetings and hearings for 30 days and ordered the public to refrain from attending city council meetings in person. Those meetings will be broadcast online as usual.
City Manager Duhaney also said the city is working with social service providers to find facilities that could house those experiencing homelessness while also giving enough space to practice social distancing.
Health officials continued to stress that the measures were necessary to try and avoid an increase in COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm hospital capacity and other vital systems.
"While Hamilton County has zero cases of coronavirus at this time, I don't want anyone to be surprised when we do have a case," interim Hamilton County Public Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said, noting that the restrictions, including those put in place today, are designed to prevent the spread of the virus and endangering at-risk populations.
The city's orders come the day after Ohio Gov. Mike DWine ordered all restaurants and bars to close to dine-in customers as a way to limit the spread of the virus. That order allows restaurants to continue taking carryout, drive-thru and delivery orders.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said that the "vast majority" of Cincinnati bars and restaurants observed that order, but that a couple had to be "encouraged" to shut down.
Hamilton County Commissioners and leaders of the county's Job and Family Services and Public Health departments also spoke today about unemployment aid and other benefits the state will make available to those displaced. DeWine announced that the state was expanding its unemployment benefits program to include those displaced from work by the virus and that a one-week waiting period for those benefits would be waived.
Help getting benefits will be available through Job and Family Services, interim director Tim McCartney said today.
"This is what we are made for," he said. "This is what our job is. I have incredibly dedicated staff who have been working every day as this crisis has unfolded."
Hamilton County Commission President Denise Driehaus urged those affected to go to the state's unemployment website to find help.