COLUMBUS — Since mid-March, Ohio has reported more than 296,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
About half were added in the last six weeks.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state's latest attempt to stem the exponential spread: a 21-day statewide curfew.
Starting Thursday, Ohioans will be required to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Exemptions include essential work, healthcare needs, emergencies, grocery shopping and take-out, DeWine explained Tuesday.
Serving food or drink in-person must stop at 10 p.m., according to a release from the Ohio Department of Health.
The curfew aims to stem spread by reducing social gatherings.
During a somber address last week, DeWIne unequivocally announced industry shutdowns were imminent if the tide of rising cases doesn't turn. The situation has only worsened.
Furthermore, DeWine did not cite any concrete evidence supporting the effectiveness of a curfew; when asked about the science, he said, "We ran it by a lot of people and scientists and they said, 'Yeah, that makes sense.'"
He said the consensus is "Fewer contacts, fewer spread."
Under current statewide orders, last call for bars and restaurants is 10 p.m. If food and alcohol-serving establishments are now required to close at 10 p.m., they'll have to stop serving alcohol at 9 p.m., said Lisa Lorelli, owner of Riser Tavern and Grill.
"I'm not thrilled about it," Lorelli said Tuesday afternoon. "I understand we should, I guess, be grateful we're still open."
But when 9 p.m. rolls around, people are still watching football games, she said. The timing will definitely affect sports bars like hers.
Riser has been managing financially within the state's restrictions, but the establishment is currently closed after two employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
"This is just going to make it a little bit harder," Lorelli said.
When it comes to enforcement, DeWine said he doesn't expect law enforcement to pull people over driving after 10 p.m. Rather, officers might approach a group of people gathering after curfew.
The penalty is the same as other state health orders: a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. But racking up a fine for staying out past 10 p.m. isn't likely. DeWine said Tuesday he isn't aware of anyone who's been charged for violating a pandemic-induced order.
With no designated enforcement team, enforcing the mandate will fall upon local law enforcement.
"We're going to do everything we can to facilitate the enforcement, the reasonable enforcement of it, based on the resources we have," said Boardman police Chief Todd Werth. "We're doing all of this in conjunction with our normal duties. That's where it's hard."
Already, the department has been tapped to help manage unruly customers who refuse to obey the statewide mask mandate. Added enforcement duties put a strain on local law enforcement, Werth said. He pointed to the systemic reduction in funds for local governments.
"When the governor makes a comment that local law enforcement is going to enforce these things, it really concerns me because the resources that go along with this have an impact on us," said Werth.
In addition to new pandemic duties, police departments around the state are vulnerable to unexpected reductions in staff when officers contract the virus. The Boardman Police Department has only had four positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic, but as Werth said, "You never know. Next week you could have an outbreak."
While the CARES Act money has helped, the department's human resources remain finite.
"It's one thing to have an unlimited budget to pay them overtime. It's another thing to run them into the ground," said Werth. "Taking some of those local government funds from us previously hindered our ability to have consistent staffing, leading up to this and then past this. So simply throwing federal money at us during one moment in time right now is not going to help us solve the problem."
• According to the latest figures Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Health, the state is reporting 312,443 confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus. There have been 5,815 confirmed or suspected cases in Mahoning County; 4,084 in Trumbull County; and 2,891 in Columbiana County.
• Statewide, there have been 5,772 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 deaths, including 297 in Mahoning County; 140 in Trumbull; and 93 in Columbiana. Mahoning County's 297 reported COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday was fifth among Ohio's 88 counties; Cuyahoga County had the most with 720.
• In nearby counties: Stark, 7,053 cases and 194 deaths; Portage, 2,832 cases and 70 deaths; and Ashtabula, 1,678 cases and 53 deaths.
• Youngstown State University will have free rapid testing today for students, faculty and staff to make sure they are COVID-free before heading home for Thanksgiving break. The testing will take place on from noon to 7 p.m. in the Chestnut Room at Kilcawly Center.
• According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Monday, there are 275,513 COVID-19 cases in the state which have led to 9,355 deaths. The state said the recovery rate is 67 percent. There have been 1,973 confirmed or suspected cases in Mercer County and 30 deaths; 1,645 cases in Lawrence County and 56 deaths.
• Families can safely meet and greet Santa Claus at Southern Park Mall in the JCPenney Concourse from Nov. 27 to Dec. 24. Santa will visit with families at the mall from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
• Boardman Center Intermediate School will go fully remote through Thanksgiving break, due to COVID-19 cases at the school. A new confirmed case has triggered six quarantines involving teachers and staff, in addition to 22 other employees already quarantined or otherwise absent.
• The classic ballet "The Nutcracker," normally the Ballet Western Reserve's holiday offering, will be presented in a new way as "A Nutcracker Drive-In" at the Eastwood Field parking area on the big screen Dec. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m and on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45 per car are available on the ballet's website.