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DeWine Announces New Health Orders in Ohio As Record Hospitalizations Continue

The Greater Columbus Convention Center was set up as a surge hospital this spring. The supplies are in storage now, but could be set up again if needed.
Greater Columbus Convention Center.
The Greater Columbus Convention Center was set up as a surge hospital this spring. The supplies are in storage now, but could be set up again if needed.

Saying the coronavirus is "more intense, widespread and dangerous" than it's ever been and that every single county has a high rate of virus spread, Gov. Mike DeWine announced two new health orders on masks and social gatherings. And he hinted at more to come.

DeWine noted Ohio is seeing a record number of hospitalizations, as well as people in those in intensive care. The state has set a new record every day for the last 17 days.

716 in ICU (up from 656; 15.50% of beds)

328 on ventilators (up from 327; 6.17% capacity)

Positivity rate 11.9%; 7-day moving average 10%— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) November 11, 2020

DeWine announced a new mask order with three components:

  • Businesses must post signs requiring facial coverings;
  • Each store will have to ensure customers and employees are wearing masks;
  • And Bureau of Workers Compensation agents will be inspecting stores to ensure compliance.

A first violation will result in a written warning, with a second violation forcing the closure of the store for up to 24 hours.

DeWine also announced a new order on social gatherings, where experts say much of the spread of COVID-19 is happening. He noted "rampant spread" as a result of wedding receptions, banquets, and gatherings after funerals.

A new health order in the next few days will restrict people mingling in open congregate areas. Everyone must be seated and masked unless they're eating or drinking. Dancing and games will not be permitted.

Watch: Gov. Mike DeWine's full statewide address.

DeWine also hinted at orders to come.

DeWine said he knows the burden that shutting down businesses could bring. But he continued, "If the current trend continues and cases keep increasing, we will be forced to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers one week from tomorrow," DeWine said.

DeWine also noted that many colleges and universities are wrapping up their first semesters with remote learning. And he said that unless the spread slows dramatically, "higher education institutions may have to remain virtual when school opens in January."

DeWine noted hospitals functioning right now as if they were at the peak of flu season in January, but these new cases are not trending down. And he said that's taking an enormous toll on health care workers.

"They have been running a marathon for nine months straight, and with this new wave and the onset of flu season, it’s like they are starting the race all over again."

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau

Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.
Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.