Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s statewide address Wednesday brought a revised mask order and a new social gathering order.
The address followed a record number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions. According to a Wednesday news release from DeWine’s office, nearly 3,000 Ohioans have been hospitalized in connection with COVID-19, including more than 700 people in the ICU. During the first week of November, 104 Ohioans died after contracting COVID-19.
Health officials across the state and the nation have expressed concern for the strain COVID-19 could have on health care systems. As flu season approaches and the number of Covid-related hospitalizations increases, officials seek to avoid overburdening hospitals and health care workers.
“With this new wave of COVID-19, the onset of flu season, and an already-exhausted group of health care workers, there are serious concerns that there won’t be enough people to fully staff our health care facilities in the next few weeks,” DeWine said. “If we don’t change this, Ohio won’t be able to provide appropriate care for COVID patients or for Ohioans who require other emergency care for things like accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. Hospitals will again be forced to postpone important, but less urgent, care.”
The state has also seen a large increase in COVID-19 cases. In his address Wednesday and in other recent press conferences, DeWine has stressed that the number of new cases is not due to increased testing. Though testing capacity in Ohio has nearly doubled, the number of new positive cases has increased almost four times, the news release stated. Earlier this week, Ohio saw a new record high of more than 6,500 new cases reported in a 24-hour period.
“As we wait for the vaccine, which could come as soon as December, we have so much to protect,” DeWine said Wednesday evening. “What each Ohioan does in his or her own life impacts every citizen and every place we desperately want and need to keep open — our schools, nursing homes, hospitals and businesses.”
The revised mask order will require businesses to ensure that customers and employees wear masks. Businesses that do not enforce facial coverings will be required to close for up to 24 hours following an initial written warning for the first violation.
The new social gathering order will close open congregate areas and require that customers remain masked unless they are actively consuming food or beverages.
The state’s earlier social gathering order, which limits public events and private gatherings of more than 10 people, is still in effect.
According to the news release, this new order regarding social gatherings is a result of “tragedies” that have followed rampant COVID-19 spread at banquets, wedding receptions, and gatherings that followed funerals.
As of press time, bars, restaurants, and fitness centers may remain open, though state officials will reassess whether or not these facilities should close next Thursday, Nov. 19.
Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner declined to comment until the state’s official orders are released. According to DeWine, those orders should be released in the next few days following the Wednesday address.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.