Sorry, restaurant and bar owners. Ohio’s COVID-era curfew is sticking around for a while.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced the news during an address on Jan. 21.
To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the “Ohio Stay at Home Tonight” order prohibits Ohioans from non-essential activities outside the home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order was set to expire on Saturday, Jan. 23, but with Ohio’s COVID cases rising, DeWine says that the curfew must continue.
“Unfortunately, it’s going to have to stay. We’d love to get rid of it. The next step will probably be to take it to 11 p.m., but we’re not there,” DeWine says. “As governor, I have to try to keep this virus down at the same time that we’re getting the vaccines out as quickly as we can. The way out of this in the end will be with the vaccine.
“But we’re going to watch these other numbers. If they go down appreciably, we’ll be able to pull off that [the curfew],” DeWine continues. “But not yet.”
The curfew order went into effect in November and has been extended several times as Ohio's number of coronavirus cases rose through the winter holidays. As of today's data, Hamilton County remains at the highest level of emergency on the state's health advisory map, meaning severe COVID exposure and spread throughout the county.
Having endured the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, bar and restaurant owners have questioned the curfew, wondering if limiting operating hours really decreases COVID within a community. But DeWine says that the combination of indoor activities and maskless patrons enables more transmission vectors for the virus.
“We based this on the science,” DeWine says. “When we hit the winter months, we’ve had more spread inside. No longer can your patrons be outside on a patio; they’re inside. It [the virus] spreads more inside. Your business is a business where unfortunately people cannot wear a mask at the same time they’re eating or they’re drinking.”
DeWine says that longer hours and alcohol consumption also contribute to the danger of transmission, adding that he did not completely close bars and restaurants throughout the state, though health experts have strongly recommended it.
“The compromise is 10 p.m.. We cut off some of the time when there would be contact. We cut off some of the time when people have been drinking longer and they’re not as inhibited,” DeWine says. “There’s nothing magical about 10 p.m., but what is based in science is cutting down the contact time. When you cut down the contact time, you cut down the opportunity for that spread.”
Putting the curfew into effect while requiring masks to be worn in retail businesses has helped slow the spread of the virus, DeWine says. That’s especially important to continue as Ohio beings to see a new strain of COVID-19 that could become more contagious than the present one.
“You heard from [Ohio Department of Health medical director] Dr. Vanderhoff two days ago. He talked about this new variant, this new strain, and that is a concern that it will become more dominant in Ohio and more contagious,” DeWine says. “We simply cannot change the curfew at this point, as much as I would love to do that. As governor, I have to try to keep this virus down at the same time we’re getting the vaccines out just as quickly as we can.”
During the news conference, DeWine announced a $50 million partnership with Abbott Laboratories and eMedApps to provide 2 million rapid antigen tests to local and county health departments.
Watch the governor's full update on YouTube.