Ohio governor orders 3-week retail curfew to slow virus

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced a three-week retail curfew running from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to slow the spread of the coronavirus as cases stay at near-record high levels.

DeWine said this measure, effective Thursday, is needed to reduce cases and stop the state’s hospitals from being overrun. The curfew under which retail businesses must close, paired with increased mask-wearing, could help cut contacts between people by 20% to 25%, he said.

DeWine also asked Ohioans to consolidate their movements — such as combining shopping trips — and do at least one thing daily to reduce contact with others.

“We know if we reduce number of people we come in contact every day, we reduce the chance of getting the virus, and we reduce the chance of getting the virus if you unknowingly have it,” the governor said.

The curfew comes with several exceptions. It doesn’t apply to people who need to be at work, who have an emergency or need medical care, DeWine said.

It is also not meant to stop someone from buying groceries or getting a carry-out, drive-thru or delivered meal, DeWine said. Restaurants would not be open except for takeout and delivery, but grocery stores would, the governor said in clarifying remarks.

The Republican governor had been signaling such a restriction was in the works. In a series of Monday tweets, he said the rapid spread of the virus recently has made people’s odds of contracting it much higher.

DeWine said his administration considered but rejected a total shutdown of bars and restaurants, a possibility that had been strongly criticized by the hospitality industry.

“We think we can accomplish, frankly, a lot more by having this curfew than by closing one or two business sectors,” the governor said. A total shutdown would probably cause some businesses to close for good, mean all schools would close, and add to the mental stress Ohioans are already experiencing during the prolonged pandemic, DeWine said.

The state restaurant association expressed support for the move Tuesday.

“We think it’s the right step at the right time,” said John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Ohio hospital and intensive care admissions for COVID-19 are at record highs, with more than 3,600 people hospitalized as of Tuesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 3,097 new cases per day on Nov. 2 to 7,199 new cases per day on Nov. 16, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project.