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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Public Library System To Close Through April 3 Due To Coronavirus

downtown library
Bill Rinehart
The Downtown branch of the Hamilton County Public Library system.

Updated Thursday, March 19, 5:50 p.m.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County closed all of its facilities starting Friday evening, March 13 at 6 p.m. because of COVID-19 concerns. At first those locations were to remain shut for at least a week, but on Thursday, the library sent an email saying it would be closed through April 3.

"The latest information from the governor’s office, which indicates that aggressive early social distancing can stop COVID-19 from exponentially spreading, helped us make this decision," Paula Brehm-Heeger, the Eva Jane Romaine Coombe director of the library said last week. "This was a very difficult decision that we did not make without much careful deliberation."

Library leaders will reassess the closures on a weekly basis based on information from health officials.

A staff member at the library's distribution center has voluntarily self-quarantined. But there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 with the library staff, and no reported cases of such exposure.

The library is asking customers to hold their materials until further notice, and due dates will be extended so there won't be fines.

"We encourage our customers to use our robust eBranch, which features digital versions of books, audiobooks, music, movies, magazines and more," says Brehm-Heeger. "We’re redirecting more of our funds towards digital content to make sure even more digital resources are available for our customers during this time."

County residents can sign up for a free library card online, and use the library's eBranch as soon as they receive their confirmation email.

All library staff not reporting to work during the closure to the public will be paid for their regularly scheduled hours based on the Library’s Absence Because of Emergency Closing Policy.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.