COLUMBUS — Many Ohioans will spend the rest of April staying at home in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as the state extended its stay at home order through May 1.
The current order to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus was scheduled to expire at midnight Monday. The revised order, signed Thursday and going into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, continues to close businesses labeled non-essential.
It’s substantially the same order as the previously signed order from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.
“We’ve got to keep this monster down. He’s not dead. He’s very much alive,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. “We’re seeing our fellow citizens die every day. If we can keep our distance apart, we’re going to mitigate this damage.”
The peak for COVID-19 is expected to be sometime between April 15 and May 15. Ohio had 2,902 confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. Thursday, with 81 people dead and 802 people left hospitalized.
“We know the surge is coming. What you have been doing is saving lives,” DeWine said.
DeWine previously closed Ohio’s schools through May 1.
One difference in the new order is the addition of a dispute resolution panel. It’s intended to help decide which businesses should remain open if their owners feel they’re not being treated the same in different counties or health districts.
The rules are to be enforced by local health departments and law enforcement. Violators could be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, which can include penalties up to a $750 fine and 90 days in jail.
“Most businesses have been following this, and we’re seeing good results of that in Ohio,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “For the few who aren’t, it’s just out of fairness that we owe it to those who are following the rules to enforce these orders, to make sure we treat people fairly across the state.”
Stores remaining open must establish and post a number of people can safely be in the store at any time. They must also enforce that number by keeping people above that number outside the store. They must also maintain a 6-foot distance between customers waiting to pay. DeWine also encouraged retailers to allow their employees to wear masks.
Also, anyone coming into Ohio must self-quarantine for 14 days. There are exceptions in place for people who work across the border, such as in Indiana, Michigan or Kentucky.
The extended stay at home order comes on the heels of fresh unemployment numbers. Husted said Thursday the state added 272,117 people to the unemployment rolls, with 468,414 added in the past two weeks. In comparison, in all of 2019 there were 364,603 signups, or more than 100,000 fewer people than handled in that 14-day span.
“It is not in any way lost on us the suffering that’s going on out there,” Husted said. “We are trying to pull in every resource and asset to solve the health challenges and also the economic ones.”
Shortly after the governor’s announcement, Ohio’s Catholic bishops extended the suspension of publicly celebrated Masses and liturgies through the weekend of Sunday, May 3.
DeWine urged Ohioans to continue to follow the social distancing requirements, including limiting crowds to 10 people or less and remaining 6 feet apart, saying they are working.
“I would not make this decision if it wasn’t a matter of life and death, if it didn’t mean I’m convinced what we’re doing is saving lives,” DeWine said.